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'Don't start': Australia's health council issues advice on 'harmful' vaping

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Vaping can cause serious health problems and there is little evidence to show it is an effective way to help smokers quit traditional cigarettes, Australia's national health council says.

The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) today released its CEO statement on e-cigarettes after a review of the latest evidence. It is the first official advice the council has issued on the topic since 2017.

"The design and technology behind e-cigarettes continue to evolve but the method is the same – e-cigarettes deliver harmful substances direct to the lungs," the council's CEO Professor Anne Kelso said.

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E-cigarette-related calls to Australian Poisons Information Centres doubled between 2020 and 2021, Kelso said.

Vapes, which can contain more than 200 chemicals, have been associated with seizures and lung injuries, the council found.

Meanwhile, it is still largely unknown what effect vaping can have on cancer, cardiovascular disease, reproductive health, respiratory outcomes and mental illness.

"If you have never used e-cigarettes, don't start – the evidence shows there is a possibility you will go on to smoke tobacco cigarettes," Kelso said.

"As for smokers, the evidence remains unclear whether e-cigarettes help people quit – for example, it is common for smokers to become dual users of both e-cigarettes and tobacco products instead. There are many proven quitting aids to try before considering e-cigarettes."

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Last October, a federal ban was introduced making it illegal to sell or import nicotine containing vaping products without a prescription in Australia.

However, health experts say the use of vapes is still surging, particularly among young people. E-cigarettes have also been identified as a gateway to taking up traditional smoking.

A report released late last month by the NSW Health Department showed the number of young people vaping has doubled in the space of a year.

Eleven percent of people aged 16 to 24 reported being a current user of e-cigarettes, compared to 4.5 percent in 2020, data from the NSW Population Health Survey, showed.

Australia's Chief Medical Officer Paul Kelly said he was "deeply concerned" about the health impacts of vaping and the increased use of e-cigarettes in Australia.

"What's clear to me … is that the only thing we should be breathing in is air," Kelly said.

"There's no question that there are potential harms from e-cigarette use for those who have never smoked and we know the harms of smoking."

Contact reporter Emily McPherson at emcpherson@nine.com.au.



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