Chris O'Connor

By Chris O’Connor

The growing use of e-cigarettes, or vaping, in Australia poses a “serious public health risk” and threatens to introduce a new generation to smoking.

That’s according to the authors of a major new government report into the health effects of e-cigarettes, which found vaping can be harmful, particularly for non-smokers and young people.

The global systematic review, undertaken by researchers at the Australian National University, is the most comprehensive review of vaping-related health impacts to date.

“We reviewed the global evidence in order to support informed choices on vaping for Australia,” said review lead author Emily Banks from the Australian National University’s National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health.

“The evidence shows e-cigarettes carry significant harms.”

The review found vaping increases the risk of multiple adverse health outcomes, including poisoning, addiction, seizures, burns, lung injury and smoking uptake. Professor Banks said the high and increasing rate of vaping among young people was causing addiction in “a new generation of users”.

“Nicotine is a key ingredient and one of the most addictive substances known,” she said.

“Young non-smokers who vape are around three times as likely to take up smoking than non-vapers.”

In Australia, it is illegal for anyone to possess a nicotine-filled vape unless they are over 18 and have a prescription from a doctor tor to help them stop smoking.

But in recent years, medical experts and educators have expressed concern about young people continuing to access disposable vape products — often containing nicotine — at convenience stores and other retailers.

“[E-cigarette] use is more common among youth, particularly young males … and the majority is not for the purposes of smoking cessation,” Professor Banks said.

Professor Banks said high-concentration nicotine products were being targeted at young people with fruity, confectionary flavourings and discrete packaging.

“Young people are being sold a lie that e-cigarettes are just harmless water vapour,” she said.

“They are not harmless water vapour. They contain a lot of chemicals and there’s evidence that they’re harmful to health.”