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All up in smoke

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All up in smoke

Australia is losing ground on tobacco control, lagging behind the rest of the world, as vaping and cigarette marketers up their game.

It’s no secret that e-cigarettes are a dangerous and addictive trend among our youth. In fact, the latest data from Private Healthcare Australia (the peak body for health insurers) reveals seven children aged under 15 – including a two-year-old – have been hospitalised due to a vaping-related disorder or injury since 2020.

Another 19 young people aged 15 to 24 required hospital treatment connected to vaping. The average time spent in hospital was 5.6 days.

Private Healthcare Australia CEO Dr Rachel David says the data is likely to be the “tip of the iceberg” because it only includes people who used their health insurance for their hospital treatment.

“This is more evidence of the dangerous, addictive threat vaping poses to Australians of all ages, including young people who may not realise they’re gambling with their health,” she says.

“E-cigarettes or vapes might smell sweet and look benign, but research shows they contain up to 200 chemicals including weed killer and paint stripper.

“We also know that many of the products claiming to be nicotine-free contain the addictive drug.”

Dr David commends the Albanese government for taking a strong stand against vaping and says its ban on the importation of disposable, single-use vapes earlier this month is a great start.

“Health funds want to protect Australians from the preventable damage vaping causes,” she says.

“We do not want another generation developing nicotine addiction and heart and lung problems like we saw with tobacco. Health funds will continue to work with the Albanese government on its efforts to eliminate vaping in 2024.”

The hospital admissions cost health funds $1.23 million, with the median claim costing $1960. One-in-five hospital admissions was classified as ‘high-cost claims’ exceeding $10,000. Forty per cent of the hospital admissions were in NSW, followed by 28 per cent in Queensland, 23 per cent in Victoria, and three per cent in Western Australia and South Australia.

In a bid to combat the rising trend, new graphic health warnings on cigarettes and vape packages will also come into effect from April 1.

Under the laws, cigarettes and vapes will contain messages such as ‘toxic addiction’ or ‘poisons in every puff’.

Health Minister Mark Butler says the laws are needed to ensure a generation of new smokers do not start.

“Australia has gone from being a global leader in tobacco control to being a laggard – we’re now behind the play in the global fight against tobacco,” he says.

“Big tobacco in that time has adapted: they have developed a range of cunning, effective marketing strategies, particularly targeting younger Australians.”

About 20 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds vape, while about one-in-seven 14 to 17-year-olds use the product.

“We need to update some of the measures in place under the … laws from a decade ago, particularly the graphic health warnings,” he says. “Research tells us (the warnings) had lost their impact, had lost their punch because people have become so familiar to images that were so shocking and repulsive 10 years ago.”

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive Terry Slevin says the new laws are a welcome step.

“This new legislation, coupled with the recent vaping regulations, will save tens-of-thousands of lives and reassert the country as a world leader in tobacco control,” he says.     – AAP.

 

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