Lung Foundation Australia is calling for federal parliamentarians to urgently address the rise in the use of unregulated flavoured e-cigarettes among Australian youth.
A statement informed by leading health experts and advocates will be presented to MPs and Senators today (Wednesday).
It outlines initiatives to help safeguard the respiratory health of young Australians, including raising the cost of flavoured e-liquids and exploring ways to potentially regulate chemicals commonly used in them.
The statement is a result of discussions over ground-breaking research, delivered at an expert roundtable late last year, into ingredients used in flavoured e-liquids.
Lung Foundation Australia CEO Mark Brooke said increasing numbers of young Australians were vaping flavoured e-cigarettes, unaware that most chemicals used in them had not been tested for safety when heated and inhaled.
“Vape liquids are highly variable and largely unregulated. It is not safe to assume that because a chemical flavouring is used in food or soap, it is safe to inhale,” Mr Brooke said.
“Young people need, and deserve, trusted information to be available to them.
“No one’s lungs should be compromised by exposure to unknown and untested aerosols.”
Despite a decrease in the prevalence of smoking, Australian National Drug Strategy figures show a sharp increase in the use of e-cigarettes. Flavoured e-liquids and associated devices are widely available as consumer products in Australia to anyone aged 18 and over.
At December’s roundtable event, hosted by Lung Foundation Australia and supported by nib foundation, independent research of chemically-flavoured, over-the-counter e-liquids was tabled. The study revealed serious safety and respiratory concerns; and led to a consensus among attendees that government action was required.
Along with restricting availability through higher taxes and more stringent regulations, the roundtable statement calls for plain packaging of all flavoured e-liquids, raising the age of access to 21 and investment in further research to fully understand health and social impacts.
The Curtin University/Telethon Kids Institute research[i] tested 52 e-liquids and found that:
- None had a complete accurate ingredient list;
- 21 per cent contained nicotine, despite it being illegal to sell e-liquids containing nicotine in Australia; and
- More than 60 per cent contained chemicals likely to be toxic if vaped repeatedly.
Jahin Tanvir, youth advocate and Young Leader at Consumers Health Forum, said the study clearly highlighted why harmful ingredients and associated vaping dangers were becoming a “great concern”.
“For impressionable teenagers who are dealing with growth issues such as finding their identity and mental health, vaping has the capacity to become a significant risk for their health in the long-term,” Mr Tanvir said.
“It needs to be addressed by our country’s decision-makers; the time to act is now before it is too late.”
Dr Michelle Jongenelis, Senior Research Fellow, University of Melbourne, attended the vaping roundtable event and said the roundtable statement highlighted concerns about e-cigarettes that were shared by many working in public health.
“The actions proposed have been informed by existing evidence documenting the significant harms associated with flavoured e-cigarette use. There is an urgent need to protect young Australians from short and long-term health implications of inhalation of unregulated aerosols,” she said.
Lung Foundation Australia, supported by funding from nib foundation, is developing a series of resources to inform parents, carers, young people and educators about the hidden dangers of vaping.
For media enquiries please contact:
Greg Kemp, Media and Communications Coordinator
Ph: 07 3251 3669
About Lung Foundation Australia
Lung Foundation Australia is the only charity and leading peak body of its kind in Australia that funds life-changing research and delivers support services that give hope to those affected. Since 1990, we have been working to ensure lung health is a priority for all, from promoting lung health and early diagnosis, advocating for policy change and research investment, raising awareness about the symptoms and prevalence of lung disease and championing equitable access to treatment and care. Find out more at www.lungfoundation.com.au.
[i] Ground-breaking Australian study confirms major concerns over e-cigarette safety: https://lungfoundation.com.au/news/ground-breaking-australian-study-confirms-major-concerns-over-e-cigarette-safety/