Page 4016 - Week 12 - Wednesday, 30 November 2022

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We have done so much over the past two decades to address cigarette smoking. It is astonishing to me that we have even allowed into Australia this product that, in itself, causes harm, and we have very little understanding of the long-term health implications. The latest and leading ANU research states that vaping actually acts as a gateway to cigarette smoking and nicotine addiction and that, thanks to the ease of purchasing, the attractive colours and flavours of vaping products, they are extra attractive to young, impressionable teenagers.

As the Minister for Health outlined, the early findings of the Health Directorate’s research are very worrying, with 14- to 24-year-olds making it clear that vaping is perceived as commonplace in schools, local nightclubs and locations such as Civic. Research undertaken by researchers at the ANU in April showed that young non-smokers who vape are three times more likely to take up traditional tobacco smoking, and we need to make sure that this issue is being taken very seriously.

In 2020 the Australian Department of Health conducted a study on the use of multiple substances used by Australian school students. Of serious concern was the finding that around 14 per cent of students aged between 12 and 17 years had used e-cigarette products and 32 per cent had said they had used one in the past month. Almost half of students who vaped had never smoked tobacco before trying an e-cigarette. Around a quarter of these students who had used e-cigarettes before ever smoking reported later trying tobacco cigarettes.

In the over-18 dataset of the 2020-21 ABS data they found e-cigarette and vaping use was most common in people aged 18 to 24, with 4.8 per cent reporting they currently use a device, with 21 per cent saying they have used a device at least once. It does not matter what research you source, vaping rates among teenagers and young people is highly concerning. Particularly concerning is if we are to expect the same rates as teenagers and young people overseas both in the UK and US where up to two-thirds of young people are vaping regularly.

Vaping and e-cigarette products are incredibly easy to source by young people, which is why I was incredibly happy to see the Health Legislation Amendment Act 2022 pass last week, as it is an important step forward in providing a range of legal safeguards to protect our young people and prevent them from accessing e-cigarettes from ACT retailers.

The reason that vaping is so concerning is that the liquids sold that people vape or inhale into their lungs is, from all reports, highly toxic. I point you to a joint operation between ACT Health and the TGA in October last year where they raided and seized products from a number of retailers in the ACT and tested them. It was disturbing to find out that two out of three products seized had prohibited and dangerous ingredients in them. Two-thirds of the products seized contained one or more of eight ingredients that are prohibited by law, as they pose known health risks when inhaled. Six prohibited ingredients were found, including a flavouring agent which, when inhaled, can cause irreversible lung damage.

Nicotine vaping liquid is now prescription only. So it is illegal for Australian retailers other than pharmacies to sell nicotine vaping products without a valid doctor’s prescription. However, this does not seem to impact the ease with which nicotine vaping products are able to be purchased in the community.

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