Former deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack has issued a dire warning about the dangers of vaping, arguing Australian hospitals will be filled to the brim in 30 years with people suffering from respiratory problems.
Speaking to the ABC, he shared that he was at a wedding recently and “it was like every second young person” resembled “Puff the Magic Dragon with fumes coming out of their nostrils”.
“Australian hospitals are going to be full of cases of people who have health conditions caused by vaping which led to cigarette smoking or just long-term use of vaping,” he said.
Michael McCormack with Wife Catherine at the TAB marquee during Melbourne Cup day last year. Picture: Luis Enrique Ascui
Authorities are under the pump to curtail the growing number of young people using e-cigarettes or vapes.
While currently, Australians have to have a prescription to legally buy nicotine vaping products, predatory manufacturers are exploiting loopholes in a bid to create a new generation hooked on nicotine.
‘Window of opportunity’
Recent research has found one in three young people aged 13-17 years has tried vaping, and half of young people 18-24 have also experimented with it.
Associate Professor Becky Freeman from the School of Public Health at the Uni of Sydney said that policymakers had a small window to act.
“I won’t make predictions about what will happen in 30 years but there is a window of opportunity to prevent a whole new generation of young people being heavily addicted to nicotine,” she said.
“I don’t understand why we would be hesitant about that.”
Prof Freeman said vaping rates skyrocketed during Covid among young people as health authorities were focused on the pandemic.
“Corporations took advantage of us being asleep at the wheel,” she said.
“It coincided with the introduction of cheap, flavoured disposable nicotine-containing devices that are highly appealing to young people.
“You just have to look at the packaging, bright colours, flavours, cartoon images on them, to know they aren’t designed for adult smokers who have tried everything to quit, they are clearly targeted at young people.”
Vaping is seen as clean, and ‘healthy’ and something fun associated with being young,’ says Prof Freeman. Picture: iStock
She said while young people appear strongly against smoking disturbingly they don’t appear to associate vaping with smoking.
“Vaping is seen as clean, and ‘healthy’ and something fun associated with being young,” she said.
Vaping regulation ineffective
Currently, Australians have to have a prescription to legally buy nicotine vaping products but non-nicotine vaping products can be freely sold anywhere.
“The problem is how do you tell the difference between a nicotine and non nicotine product. you have to take it back to the lab,” Prof Freeman said.
Prof Freeman argued that allowing only pharmacies to sell vape products would go a long way to snuffing out growing issues on multiple fronts.
It’s a sentiment backed up by Associate Professor Johnson George from the Centre for Medicine Use and Safety at Monash Uni.
Vapes are not a regulated product, he said.
“Studies have shown that while some vapes claim to be nicotine free they actually contain nicotine and also many contain flavouring agents and other ingredients that may be harmful when inhaled in higher temperatures for longer term.”
Weâ€™re setting up a Parliamentary Inquiry to get to the truth about e-cigarettes and vaping. I want everyone to be armed with the best information about the potential dangers of vaping. Right now, Queenslanders simply donâ€™t have that information.
— Annastacia Palaszczuk (@AnnastaciaMP) March 11, 2023
He said the answer is simple: ‘No pain, no gain”.
“We have seen in the last decade has been the result of strong policies such as plain packaging, higher taxes and smoking bans/restrictions when it comes to smoking,” he said. “That is the way to go. E-cigs/vaping may appear to be a safe alternative to evidence based treatments, but they are not.”
Queensland is one state looking to crack down on e-cigarettes, this month proposing new laws and launching a probe into vapes.
Queensland Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk successfully moved a motion for a parliamentary committee to conduct a wide-ranging inquiry into vapes.
The inquiry will consider the prevalence of e-cigarette use, particularly among children, and the potential risks of chemicals including nicotine to individuals, the community and the health system.
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Almost nine in 10 Australian adults believe the government should take action to prevent young people from becoming addicted to e-cigarettes.
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