Alison Barrett writes:
The Queensland Government has launched a Parliamentary Inquiry investigating the availability, prevalence and health risks associated with vaping and e-cigarettes.
The inquiry – due to report by 31 August – will investigate the impact of vaping among adolescents and young people, and also examine approaches being used in Queensland schools to minimise this impact.
“If vaping is a stepping stone to smoking, we need to ensure Queenslanders, especially young Queenslanders, are aware of the health risks. Critically, we need to have greater knowledge about what vaping devices contain,” Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said in a statement.
In a paper published today, Associate Professor Becky Freeman of the University of Sydney says that “vaping product use by young Australians has dramatically and rapidly increased. Easy access and marketing of cheap, flavoured, disposable, nicotine-containing vaping products are driving use”.
As well as a call to renew attention in tobacco control, Freeman said in a statement that “all sales of vaping products other than those prescribed by a doctor to aid in quitting smoking” should be banned.
Adding to the increasing body of concerns over vaping and calls for stronger regulations, two articles were published in The Conversation last week about the power of the vaping industry and exploitative marketing techniques used to sell vaping products.
The articles, one written by Professor Simon Chapman and the other by Professor Jonine Jancey, are summarised below.
Together, the articles by Freeman, Chapman and Jancey paint a clear picture about the impacts of vaping and urgent need for action before it becomes too late for many children’s health.
Learning from history
A potted history of smoking and how we’re making the same mistakes with vaping, by Professor Simon Chapman, published 6 March 2023
Emeritus Professor and long-standing and dedicated advocate for tobacco control Simon Chapman outlines the history of tobacco industry regulations, arguing we are making the same slow mistakes with vaping as was made with tobacco.
Vaping has been widespread only in the past decade, and even though it is still too early for many vaping-related lung cancer cases to have emerged, growing evidence indicates that “vaping is likely to be anything but benign,” according to Chapman.
Given the “deadly toxicology of tobacco smoke emerged over decades,” it is likely we have much more to learn about the ingredients in vapes.
However, “the many thousands of flavouring chemicals in vapes present bewildering challenges for regulators”, Chapman wrote.
While significant restrictions or banning of tobacco advertising and promotion have been in place in many countries for a long time, social media and digital technologies “present formidable barriers” to regulating vape advertising, according to Chapman.
As do the insidious tactics of the vaping industry –
Just as the tobacco industry for decades denied targeting children, we are seeing almost identical claims and strategies being used by vaping industries today. And it’s important to note all major tobacco companies are now also manufacturing vapes, so it’s not just the same game, it’s the same players,” Chapman wrote.
Sex and lies are used to sell vapes online. Even we were surprised at the marketing tactics we found, by Professor Jonine Jancey, published 6 March 2023
Buying vapes is easy and marketed as “sexy, sleek and environmentally friendly”, according to Professor Jonine Jancey from the Curtin School of Population Health in Western Australian.
Recent research by Jancey and colleagues from Curtin and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health examined 20 vaping retail websites for product range, access, marketing claims and strategies.
They found products were sold with price discounts, and that a range of misleading health claims were being used to sell vapes online – including that they contain “zero carcinogens” and lead to improved breathing.
The type of marketing being used “would be particularly appealing to younger buyers,” Jancey wrote.
Given the increase in vaping in Australian young adults in recent years, this is hugely problematic.
In Australia, nicotine-containing vapes are only legally available to adults with a doctor’s prescription as a smoking cessation aid. In New Zealand, nicotine-containing vapes are legally available to people over 18 but as a regulated product – for example, workplaces are required to be smokefree and vapefree.
However, the mounting evidence of use in people younger than 18 years old indicates that vapes are being sold to people without prescriptions and people under 18, according to Jancey.
“It’s time we stop the promotion of, and easy access to, vaping products through online retailers. We also need to ban the use of unsubstantiated marketing claims,” Jancey wrote.
See Croakey’s extensive archive of articles on the commercial determinants of health.