Why Australia decided to quit its vaping habit

News Maker

"The horse has bolted now, they are addicted," says Chris, a high school teacher in New South Wales.

He's talking about students in his class, teenagers, who can't stop vaping.

He sees the effect of the candy-flavoured, nicotine-packed e-cigarettes on young minds every day, with children even vaping in class.

"The ones who are deepest into it will just get up out of their seat, or they'll be fidgeting or nervous. The worst offenders will just walk out because they're literally in withdrawal."

Those who are most addicted need nicotine patches or rehabilitation, he says, talking about 13 and 14-year-olds.

Earlier this month the government decided enough is enough and introduced a range of new restrictions. Despite vapes already being illegal for many, under new legislation they will become available by prescription only.

The number of vaping teenagers in Australia has soared in recent years and authorities say it is the "number one behavioural issue" in schools across the country.

And they blame disposable vapes - which some experts say could be more addictive than heroin and cocaine - but for now are available in Australia in every convenience store, next to the chocolate bars at the counter.

For concerned teachers like Chris, their hands have been tied.

"If we suspect they have a vape, all we can really do is tell them to go to the principal's office.

"At my old school, my head teacher told me he wanted to install vape detector alarms in the toilet, but apparently we weren't allowed to because that would be an invasion of privacy."

E-cigarettes have been sold as a safer alternative to tobacco, as they do not produce tar - the primary cause of lung cancer.

Some countries continue to promote them with public health initiatives to help cigarette smokers switch to a less deadly habit.

Last month, the UK government announced plans to hand out free vaping starter kits to one million smokers in England to get smoking rates below 5% by 2030.

But Australia's government says that evidence that e-cigarettes help smokers quit is insufficient for now. Instead, research shows it may push young vapers into taking up smoking later in life.

'Generation Vape'

Vapes, or e-cigarettes, are lithium battery-powered devices that have cartridges filled with liquids containing nicotine, artificial flavourings, and other chemicals.

The liquid is heated and turned into a vapour and inhaled into the user's lungs.

Vaping took off from the mid-2000s and there were some 81 million vapers worldwide in 2021, according to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction group.

Fuelling the rise is the mushrooming popularity of flavoured vapes designed to appeal to the young.

These products can contain far higher volumes of nicotine than regular cigarettes, while some devices sold as 'nicotine-free' can actually hold large amounts.

Some disposable vapes have also been shown to contains formaldehyde and acetaldehyde - which have been linked to lung disease, heart disease, and cancer.


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