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Addictive vaping growing more popular with Aussie youth

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New research shows e-cigarette use to be increasingly popular among young Australians.

The research, first published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health (ANZJPH) and funded by Healthway, found that young e-cigarette users in Australia have a strong preference for flavoured varieties of vaping products.

Fruit flavours are particularly popular. E-cigarettes containing nicotine are also widely popular with young Australians.

The study included an online survey of more than 1100 young adults aged 18 to 25 in Australia.

Lead author Dr Michelle Jongenelis, Research Fellow at Curtin University’s School of Psychology, said: “These results show what many health professionals have suspected for some time now, that young people are indeed vulnerable to the marketing and advertising of electronic cigarettes and even those who have never smoked traditional cigarettes are increasingly interested in trying these devices.

“E-cigarettes are often marketed as a harmless yet glamorous product. They are available in a mind-boggling number of flavours designed specifically to appeal to young people. The fact that young Australians are responding to this marketing is highly concerning given the lack of evidence of the safety of the devices.”

There are widespread concerns among health professionals that the chemicals, heavy metals and additives in e-cigarettes pose risks to health including impaired breathing, cellular-level damage, changes to blood pressure and heart rate, and adverse effects on the nervous system.

In response to this new evidence, the Public Health Association of Australia said Australian Governments need to take the findings seriously and act accordingly.

“This should ring warning bells and highlights the need for greater vigilance around regulation and monitoring of such devices,” chief executive Terry Slevin said.

“The prime concern, at a time when a tiny number of teenagers are taking up smoking tobacco, is that these devices are harmful, addictive and may be used as a gateway to traditional cigarettes.”

As of 2016, fewer than one per cent of Australian children aged 12 to 15 year had ever tried smoking cigarettes, following decades of increasing tobacco control measures and awareness campaigns by Governments and health groups.

Yet this latest study suggests vaping is fast becoming the smoking product of choice for Australian youth.

A total of 89 per cent of the young people in the latest survey who used e-cigarettes prefer the flavoured varieties. Two thirds of young users preferred e-cigarettes with nicotine.

“(This) shows the potential for addiction to these devices. Their use as a gateway to smoking traditional cigarettes is a likely risk,” Dr Jongenelis said.

“It is critical we do everything in our power to resist any slide backwards on tobacco control in Australia. Until we have more data on the risks of e-cigarettes as a gateway to regular smoking there is a need for increased vigilance in regulation of the devices.”