It’s a modern-day smoking trend, but how dangerous really is vaping?
Data shows the flavoured nicotine craze continues to grow, but what effect is vaping really having on society and especially young people.
Vaping is the act of inhaling smoke from a device with a cartridge filled with flavoured liquid, often called ‘juice’, that typically contains nicotine along with various other chemicals.
While vape devices (commonly called e-cigarettes) are technically illegal to own in Western Australia without a prescription from a doctor, they are in many cases easier to get your hands on than a packet of cigarettes.
Doctors in WA can prescribe legal vaping to heavy smokers trying to quit, all though experts say the unknown long-term effects of vaping should be considered when decisions about prescriptions are being made.
Dr Stephen Bright, from the school of medical and health sciences at Edith Cowan University, said uncertainty around the long-term effects of vaping is a cause for concern.
“I think the issue with vaping is we don’t really know what the long-term harms are full stop, whether that’s with adults or young people,” Dr Bright said.
He acknowledged though that there are benefits to vaping when used correctly and under doctor’s prescription, as vapes can be a less harmful alternative for cigarette smokers and help them to quit completely. He added that in those circumstances: “it leads to an overall positive outcome on smokers’ health.”
According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ 2021 data over 20 per cent of people aged 18 to 24 had used an e-cigarette or vaping device in their life. Whilst 7.6 per cent aged 15 to 17 had admitted to doing so.
Australian Council on Smoking and Health chief executive Maurice Swanson said vaping was especially dangerous for younger people.
He said: “For younger people, whose brains are still developing up until they’re 25, there’s good evidence that long periods of exposure to vape aerosol and nicotine can effect brain development and function.”
Mr Swanson said the debate about one being better than the other when it comes to vapes and cigarettes is a foolish one and both should be avoided.
He explained: “If you compare a smoker who smokes 15 cigarettes a day they inhale around 105 puffs of smoke into their lungs, but a vaper who has no restrictions on the use of their vape can take up to 500 to 600 puffs.
“What you find is many people who set out to use e-cigarettes to quit smoking end up dual using and continue to use standard cigarettes and e-cigarettes, with a very small proportion actually quitting.”
While the medical world is divided over whether there are any real positives to vaping, there is broad agreement that illegal sales of vapes to people without prescriptions are not good.
Popular TikTok user Wyatt Gordon often posts videos of himself vaping and joking about his heavy vape consumption.
He said: “I started vaping last year and I was never actually a smoker. I was against smoking all together, but the different colours and flavours of the vapes drew me in.
“They’re so easy to get. Everyone really knows where they sell them, and they’re not hard to find if you don’t,” he said.
Dr Bright said the most significant harms that have been observed from vaping have been from products that have been illegally sold without prescription.