Vaping numbers surge despite crackdown

Morgan Liotta

31/01/2024 4:27:32 PM

Almost 400,000 Australians took up vaping between December 2022–23, representing a 30% year-on-year increase.

Young girl vaping
Vaping prevalence in Australia has increased by 535% since 2018.

Around 1.7 million adults now vape in Australia, with the trend steadily growing since 2018, according to newly released data prepared for the Department of Health and Aged Care (DoHAC).
The figures show that in the 12 months between December 2022–23, almost 400,000 people started vaping, representing a 30% year-on-year rise, while the overall prevalence has increased by 535% since the figures were first tracked in 2018.
Use is particularly high among those aged 34 years and under, with one in five 18–24-year-olds estimated to be current vapers, alongside more than one in six people aged 25–34.
Meanwhile, one in seven children aged 14–17 are believed to have vaped in the month leading up to December 2023, with the cohort comprising 8% of all users.
Those aged 25–34 represent 37% of all vapers, followed by 18–24-year-olds (26%). Combined, those aged 14–34 represent 71% of all users.
The latest figures were released at the same time as new research suggesting a ‘rapid and recent growth’ of vape stores within walking distance of schools, many of which are co-located in low socioeconomic areas.
The study, which audited the number and location of dedicated e-cigarette retailers across Western Australia, shows that close to nine in 10 vape stores are within a one-kilometre radius to schools.
Lead author Dr Matthew Tuson said that while the study was conducted in WA, the density of vape retailers near schools and in disadvantaged communities is ‘a problem we expect exists right across Australia’.
‘The proximity of vape stores to schools increases young people’s access to vapes and exposure to marketing, ultimately normalising e-cigarette use,’ he said.
The study is also the first of its kind in Australia showing that vape stores are more concentrated in disadvantaged areas.
‘We know from overseas studies that the tobacco industry often sets up shop in disadvantaged areas where they can prey on vulnerable populations, and we found the same pattern here with vape retailers,’ Dr Tuson said.
The study identified 194 stores, 88% of which were located within one kilometre of a school. In metropolitan WA, vape store density was nearly seven times higher in the most disadvantaged areas than in the least disadvantaged areas.
These findings reinforce a need for urgent action to reduce e-cigarette availability through ‘strong regulatory and compliance measures’ targeting illegal sales of the products, the authors state.
From 1 January, the Federal Government banned the import of single-use vapes as part of the rollout of a suite of reforms to address the sharp increase in vaping, particularly among young people, with GP-prescribed therapeutic vapes available to support smoking cessation.
However, loopholes remain with the availability of vapes via the black market and illegal shipments arriving onshore.
The RACGP has remained supportive of the Government’s crackdown on vaping, and President Dr Nicole Higgins recently told newsGP that ‘nicotine addiction is a serious health issue, whatever the source’.

‘We completely back the Government’s vaping reform – the thought of standing by as a new generation of young people becomes hooked is completely unacceptable to anyone who cares about public health,’ she said.
While people who exclusively smoke tobacco still make up the majority (49%) of nicotine users in Australia, exclusive vaping currently sits at 31%, while use of both vapes and tobacco is 20%.
Separate data released in December last year reveal that one in six high school students are vaping. Of those, 23% who had ever vaped reported first trying or using when they were 13 years of age.
The authors of the WA research highlight their results provide up-to-date figures on the number of vape stores across the state, and that proximity of retailers to schools or homes can influence smoking and/or vaping behaviours.
Additionally, it demonstrates the urgency for tighter regulation on vape sales, as students return to school for 2024 and will be commuting past vape stores that ‘visibly market their wares’.
‘Our findings back evidence of a strong association between the density of vape stores and socioeconomic disadvantage and proximity of stores to schools,’ they write.
‘In metropolitan WA, vape store density is strongly associated with socioeconomic disadvantage, mirroring the pattern observed globally for tobacco outlets.’
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Harps   1/02/2024 8:09:18 PM

Evil B____rds