Despite local restrictions on vape adverts, Australian youth are still being bombarded by heavy marketing on the products via international influencers on social media. WA researchers are looking into ways these can be stopped.
As of October 2021, vapers in Australia are only able to purchase vaping products from pharmacies via prescription. While retailers in neighbouring New Zealand and most other countries are able to responsibly sell nicotine products over the counter, anyone caught violating Australia’s harsh regulations will face steep fines, and in some cases even imprisonment.
Meanwhile, as part of the ongoing panic surrounding teen vaping, vape shop owners across Western Australia have recently received a warning from the WA health department, asking them to cease operations within 14 days.
In response to this, a coalition of vape groups and tobacco harm reduction activists have called on the Australian Department of Health to stop the current crackdown on legal vape businesses. Released on Wednesday July 20th, the letter was signed by seventeen vaping consumer organisations worldwide. While WA researchers are questioning what legislation changes can be made at state level in order to block youth access to vape marketing on social media.
Researcher Marilyn Bromberg from the University of WA, is among the team of researchers. “There are studies that have shown this connection between seeing this advertisement on social media and young people using e-cigarettes,” she said. “Social media being international and ubiquitous is unique and we will really need to look at that quite rigorously.”
“There are all these advertisements on social media and [we are] trying to protect our young people from the negative health repercussions that can result from when they vape,” added Bomberg, while WA Cancer Council Prevention and Research Director Melissa Ledger said she was concerned for the health of the next generation, while sadly repeating inaccurate facts about the products.
“E-cigarettes are harmful, the evidence has become much clearer in the last few months,” she said. “We know that nicotine is highly, highly addictive and there’s certainly evidence of young people becoming nicotine dependent. [E-cigarettes] can also lead to nicotine poisoning, they can lead to acute lung disease and the long-term effects at this point in time are not known. We just don’t want another generation to end up not being the healthiest that they can be.”
The science on vaping and respiratory health
On the other hand, a study by award winning and renowned expert in respiratory health and tobacco harm reduction, Prof. Riccardo Polosa, titled “Health effects in COPD smokers who switch to electronic cigarettes: a retrospective-prospective 3-year follow-up”, had indicated that patients suffering from the serious Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) who had completely switched from cigarettes to e-cigarettes, reported improved respiratory symptoms. Meanwhile those who continued to smoke, experienced no change in either measure of disease severity.
Similarly, a comprehensive review also conducted by Polosa in August 2019, which was carried out with the aim of analysing the effects of vaping on lung health in comparison to those of smoking, had indicated once again that vaping is much less damaging to the lungs than smoking.
“We critically assess published research on the respiratory system investigating the effects of ECs in pre-clinical models, clinical studies of people who switched to ECs from tobacco cigarettes, and population surveys. We assess the studies for the quality of their methodology and accuracy of their interpretation. To adequately assess the impact of EC use on human health, addressing common mistakes and developing robust and realistic methodological recommendations is an urgent priority,” read the study Abstract.