A ban on vapes and e-cigarettes is on its way but are vapes really that bad? We give you the smoky details.
Beyond the bright coloured packaging, enticing flavours and affordable prices that made vaping a popular alternative to cigarette smoking, is the damaging epidemic that is affecting our young people.
On Tuesday, 2 May, the Federal Government declared its fight against e-cigarettes by changing legislation that will outlaw recreational vaping.
This follows the public consultation being run by the South Australian Government on the YourSAy website to ban vaping and smoking in certain outdoor places and increase penalties to protect people’s health.
In 2022, 7.8 per cent of people aged 15 to 29 were using e-cigarettes compared to only 1.1 per cent in 2017, according to the latest data from Drug and Alcohol Services South Australia (DASSA).
But, SA isn’t the only state with young vapers in the spotlight.
According to a Cancer Council report, two thirds of young people aged 13 to 19 had tried vaping.
To assist in curbing these trends, the Federal Government 2023-24 budget will include $737 million in funding to work with states and territories to protect Aussies against tobacco and vaping products.
On the 11 May, 2023, the South Australian Government announced its campaign to prevent young people from taking up vaping. The campaign will see a series of posters placed throughout public high schools showing the harmful substances found in vapes, including nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray.
Last year, the Poisons Information Centre received 30 calls from South Australians about children under 5 being exposed to vape devices and liquids.
Are vapes really better for you than cigarettes?
The short answer: we don’t exactly know yet. Unlike cigarettes, which have been around since the 19th century, vapes are relatively new having only entered that market in 2003.
Clinton Cenko, manager at the Tobacco Control Unit at SA Health, explains we’ve had plenty of years to research the health impacts of smoking but because vapes are in their infancy, we don’t have studies measuring the long-term effects.
“At least with tobacco, you kind of knew what was in them and so we know the risks, they all had much the same ingredients. With vapes, there are a lot of different and unknown chemicals inside them that we’re not designed to inhale at those levels over long periods of time,” Clinton says.
“What we are seeing is that it can have an impact in the short term on asthma, bronchial symptoms and lung functioning in general, and we are yet to see the long term effects.”
Why are vapes addictive?
To vape, you don’t have to light up, it doesn’t have the same pungent tobacco smell and so it’s less offensive to people around you, making it a more accessible addiction.
“In some ways, it’s worse because there’s this acknowledged behaviour now in the research that vaping usually happens more regularly than smoking…vaping often occurs more regularly throughout the day,” Clinton says.
For 22-year-old Sahara Boniface, this is all too familiar.
Sahara began vaping at 19, after trying it with her partner who, at the time, started vaping as a means to quit smoking.
Sahara was never a cigarette smoker but enjoyed vaping enough that she bought one of her own ahead of a night out with friends.
“It spiralled quite quickly into me using it all the time,” Sahara says.
“I’d wake up and have a vape, I’d go in the shower, come out and have a vape, it was the first thing I did when I woke up and the last thing I did before I went to bed.”
It was only when Sahara tried to quit a year later, she began to do some research on the health impacts.
“I didn’t see it as a bad thing at all, and even for a long time after I was vaping all the time, I didn’t see myself as being addicted to nicotine,” Sahara says.
“I would still say I don’t have a good understanding of what ingredients are in it, the only one I could probably name is nicotine.”
“I didn’t take it very seriously.”
Where will vaping be banned?
The new Federal Laws will outlaw recreational vaping, meaning people will only be able to purchase vapes through pharmacies with a script. Scripts for those wishing to quit smoking will be easier to access but vibrant packaging will be replaced with a pharmaceutical-style label.
The Federal Government has called for all states and territories to band together to close down the sale of e-cigarette outside of pharmacies, and have declared an additional $30 million for quit programs and $64 million for an evidence-based campaign.
As of 1 September, 2023, the government will also increase tax on tobacco by 5 per cent per year over the next three years.
For the State Government, public consultation has already begun on the YourSAy website to ban smoking and vaping within 10 metres of children’s education and child-care centres, including schools and within five metres of entrances of non-residential buildings, such as shopping centres and commercial buildings.
It also proposes to ban smoking at public hospitals, health and aged care facilities, within outdoor public swimming facilities and on certain areas of beaches.
If introduced, you also won’t be able to vape or smoke at major sports or events facilities or within 10 metres of playing and viewing areas at under-18 sporting events.
Aren’t some of those already non-smoking areas?
Not necessarily. Some places might have their own smoking restrictions, but they might not extend to vaping.
Sahara believes in addition to smoke-free areas an education campaign and plain packaging is important to help curb the amount of young people vaping.
“I think [the ban] will be effective but I’m not sure how effective,” Sahara says.
“If people know what they are actually putting in their bodies, they will be less likely to put it in their bodies especially with something like a vape which is basically all chemicals.”