Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 3 August 2021) . . Page.. 2222 ..
MRS JONES (Murrumbidgee) (3.30): I thank Dr Paterson for this debate today. It goes very much to the heart of something that maybe my generation and older do not understand if we are not smokers, because we have not necessarily had a lot of access to these devices. We have certainly seen them used in the community, but that does not necessarily mean that we are okay with all the details of what the companies that are pushing these things are trying to achieve.
Going back to the prevalence of smoking in Australia, especially amongst young people, we know it has, thankfully, declined in recent decades. Between 1991 and 2019, the percentage of people in Australia that were daily smokers declined from 24 per cent to 11 per cent. The reduction of smoking by young people has also fallen significantly. In 2001, 15.4 per cent of 14- to 17-year-olds in Australia smoked; in 2019, that number had fallen to 3.2 per cent, a reduction of almost 80 per cent.
In the ACT, efforts to counter the uptake of tobacco smoking amongst young people have been successful. Between 2007 and 2019, the percentage of people in the ACT aged 18 to 24 who smoked declined from 21.1 per cent to 9.9 per cent.
Despite these successes, there is a real risk that uptake of vaping, particularly amongst young people who have never smoked, could lead to a generation of people who face currently unknown specific health consequences of extended vaping. Concerningly, there is a trend towards young people taking up vaping—even those who have never smoked, as I mentioned.
In the National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 report, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare said:
Young adults were most likely to be attracted to these products—nearly two-thirds of current smokers and 1 in 5 non-smokers aged 18–24 reported having tried e-cigarettes … Frequency of use also rose among smokers between 2016 and 2019—daily use rose from 1.5% to 3.2%, and at least monthly use increased from 3.4% to 7.8% …
That report warned that between 2016 and 2019, the percentage of the Australian population that had never smoked but had nonetheless tried vaping rose from 4.6 to 6.9 per cent of the Australian population.
While vaping is often represented as an alternative to smoking that can assist smokers to quit, the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare also warned:
Although more than two-thirds (69%) of electronic cigarette users were smokers when they first tried an e-cigarette, nearly 1 in 4 considered themselves to be a ‘never smoker’ at the time … Younger users were far more likely to report being a never smoker than older users—39% of 18–24 year olds compared with less than 10% of people aged 40 and over …
Let me emphasise that: one in four people aged between 18 and 24 who vaped regularly were never cigarette smokers.