'Highly addictive and dangerous': calls for flavoured e-cigarettes to be banned

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images 

Parents want flavoured e-cigarettes banned due to fears they are more appealing to young people, according to a recent poll.

The Royal Children's Hospital National Child Health Poll found nearly 60 per cent of parents want government to outlaw flavoured e-cigarettes amid fears of a rise in teen vaping.

Meanwhile an overwhelming majority of parents (87 per cent) want ads targeting teens stopped and 78 per cent want the same across social media. Nearly 60 per cent of parents also want flavoured e-cigarettes banned, as they're more appealing to young people.

E-cigarettes or vapes use a battery pack to heat liquid to create vapour which is then inhaled, unlike cigarettes where you inhale smoke.

Although children under 18 are prohibited from buying e-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquid, it's easy to purchase them online.

Parents are concerned advertising aimed at their kids will lead to an increase in teen vaping numbers.

They're also concerned about the health impacts. Nearly 90 per cent of those surveyed want childproof packaging to be mandatory, 84 per cent want health warnings on packaging and 88 per cent have called for the introduction of compulsory safety testing of all e-cigarette products by manufacturers.

Poll director Dr Anthea Rhodes said many parents were unclear about the health impacts of e-cigarettes with 40 per cent unaware that e-cigarettes can cause death and 31 per cent not knowing they contain toxins and chemicals.

"This study (of 2029 parents) shows that many parents believe that if a product is legal it must be safe," Dr Rhodes said.

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"The health harms of e-cigarettes are real. E-cigarette liquids contain a range of toxins and chemicals. When people breathe in the vapour from an e-cigarette these toxins and chemicals are absorbed by the lungs, just like in traditional smoking.

"E-cigarettes are not safe for teenagers and efforts should be made to educate people."

Just like the parents surveyed, Dr Rhodes wants greater regulation of e-cigarettes.

"Vaporised e-cigarette liquid sold in Australia often contains nicotine, even when the label says it doesn't," she said.

"This highly addictive substance affects the developing adolescent brain and may lead teens to experiment with other tobacco products and drugs.

"It's time to revisit the regulation of e-cigarettes and related products, if we are to avoid an epidemic of vaping related health harms in Australia."

Dr Rhodes said more than 60 people worldwide have died from vaping related lung injuries and thousands more have become very sick, yet over half of parents surveyed have not talked to their kids about the dangers of e-cigarettes or vaping.

"We are seeing the popularity of e-cigarette products begin to infiltrate Australia at an alarming rate," she said.

"Having a conversation about e-cigarettes with your child will not only help educate them but help parents to develop an honest line of communication and encourage children to share their concerns."

And parents should also be aware of the possible health impacts of passive or "second-hand" vapour.

"Any adults who use e-cigarettes should avoid doing this around their children in order to minimise any effects it may have on their child's lungs and brain," she said.

Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) president Dr Harry Nespolon said if teens choose to vape, they're gambling with their health.

"There is a lack of evidence on the health effects of recreational vaping. The long-term health impacts on users are unknown, let alone how passive exposure to the vaper will affect you," Dr Nespolon said.

"The research that has been done shows a range of side effects, including nausea, insomnia, coughing and a dry, irritated mouth or throat. And keep in mind, there are no tested and approved e-cigarette products currently available in Australia therefore the ingredients in these products are not necessarily known - none are purported to be 'safe' anywhere in the world not just in Australia."

The RACGP also has serious concerns about recreational vaping being attractive to young people and acting as a gateway to tobacco use for them.

"Vaping has the potential to promote nicotine use and normalise smoking among those who don't smoke," he said.

"Our advice for teens who vape with or without nicotine in the liquid would be to have a discussion with their parents about their usage and go to see their GP for advice if they need help to quit."