Talking about vaping with young people

Australian surveys show vaping by young people has increased.16, 17

Young people who vape nicotine are exposed to a toxic chemical that can harm adolescent brain development (the brain continues to develop until the age of 25) and lead to dependance.2

There is also some evidence that vaping nicotine is associated with later tobacco use among teenagers.20-24

Why are young people attracted to vaping?

The advertising and promotion of vaping products is illegal in Australia.

However, companies can use other strategies to target youth.

Social media has been found to play a role as both an information source and as a means of exposure to e-cigarette advertising in Australia.25

Companies are also glamourising their products to seem cool or fun and creating flavours that appeal to young people.26

There have been a number of studies which have found that e-cigarette flavours which give off the perception of sweetness (such as candy or fruit flavoured) may make buying and trying e-cigarettes more appealing among young people.27-29

"In recent years we have also seen the proliferation of shops selling enticing non-nicotine e-cigarettes and liquids with thousands of attractive flavours like green apple ice, cinnamon roll and alpha mint. These are purely recreational products that have no place in our market for either kids or adults.”30 Cancer Council Australia
Young people smoking cigarettes

Talking about vaping with young people.

Are you concerned about a young person who may be vaping? Having a conversation about it might feel tricky, but it’s always a good idea!

vaping graphic 1

Start with information

Get the key facts, learn the basics about vaping products, and think through what you want to say. Consider some questions you might be asked, and how you want to respond.

vaping graphic 2

Approach it calmly

You might want to start the conversation when you’re doing an activity together, such as driving or preparing a meal. Keep things casual and relaxed. You might want to use something you saw in a TV show or on the news as a chance to bring up the issue.

vaping graphic 3

Don’t make assumptions

If you think they may have tried vaping, avoid making accusations. Going through someone’s space looking for evidence isn’t recommended, because it can undermine trust.

vaping graphic 4

Avoid judging or lecturing

Listen to their point of view and keep it a two-way conversation. Being mindful to keep your body language and tone respectful can go a long way. If they have tried vaping, try asking questions like: ‘what made you want to try?’ and ‘how did it make you feel?’

vaping graphic 5

Don’t exaggerate

Make sure you are honest with them about potential harms and avoid exaggerated statements.

vaping graphic 6

Focus on health and explain your concerns

Focus on how you care about them and want them to be healthy. For example, if they are vaping nicotine you can say that you are concerned about the evidence that this can affect adolescent brain development.

  1. Cao DJ, Aldy K, Hsu S, McGetrick M, Verbeck G, De Silva I, et al. Review of Health Consequences of Electronic Cigarettes and the Outbreak of Electronic Cigarette, or Vaping, Product Use-Associated Lung Injury. Journal of Medical Toxicology. 2020;16(3):295-310.
  2. Pepper JK, MacMonegle AJ, Nonnemaker JM. Adolescents’ Use of Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced Device Types for Vaping. Nicotine & Tobacco Research. 2019;21(1):55-62.
  3. Yingst JM, Foulds J, Veldheer S, Hrabovsky S, Trushin N, Eissenberg TT, et al. Nicotine absorption during electronic cigarette use among regular users. PLOS ONE. 2019;14(7):e0220300.
  4. Therapeutic Goods Administration. About e-cigarettes  [updated 17 March 2020; cited 2020 September 8].
  5. National Cancer Institute. Harms of Cigarette Smoking and Health Benefits of Quitting: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services [updated 19 December 2017; cited 2020 25 August].
  6. National Academies of Sciences E, Medicine, Health. Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. In: Eaton DL, Kwan LY, Stratton K, editors. Public Health Consequences of E-Cigarettes. Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2018.
  7. Glasser AM, Collins L, Pearson JL, Abudayyeh H, Niaura RS, Abrams DB, et al. Overview of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems: A Systematic Review. American Journal of Preventive Medicine. 2017;52(2):e33-e66.
  8. St Helen G, Liakoni E, Nardone N, Addo N, Jacob P, 3rd, Benowitz NL. Comparison of Systemic Exposure to Toxic and/or Carcinogenic Volatile Organic Compounds (VOC) during Vaping, Smoking, and Abstention. Cancer Prev Res (Phila). 2020;13(2):153-62.
  9. Grando SA. Connections of nicotine to cancer. Nature Reviews Cancer. 2014;14(6):419-29.
  10. Pisinger C, Døssing M. A systematic review of health effects of electronic cigarettes. Preventive Medicine. 2014;69:248-60.
  11. Chivers E, Janka M, Franklin P, Mullins B, Larcombe A. Nicotine and other potentially harmful compounds in “nicotine-free” e-cigarette liquids in Australia. Med J Aust. 2019;210:127-8.
  12. Cox S, Leigh NJ, Vanderbush TS, Choo E, Goniewicz ML, Dawkins L. An exploration into “do-it-yourself” (DIY) e-liquid mixing: Users' motivations, practices and product laboratory analysis. Addictive Behaviors Reports. 2019;9:100151.
  13. Office on Smoking and Health. About Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes): The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;  [updated 24 February 2020; cited 2020 31 August].
  14. CDC. Outbreak of Lung Injury Associated with the Use of e-cigarette, or vaping, products. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2020 [cited 2020 June].
  15. Banks E, Beckwith K, Joshy G. Summary report on use of e-cigarettes and relation to tobacco smoking uptake and cessation, relevant to the Australian context. National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health: Australian National University; 2020.
  16. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Canberra: AIHW; 2020.
  17. Guerin N, White V. ASSAD 2017 Statistics & Trends: Australian Secondary Students’ Use of Tobacco, Alcohol, Over-the-counter Drugs, and Illicit Substances. Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer: Cancer Council Victoria; 2018.
  18. Greenhalgh E, Jenkins S, Scollo MM. Key Australian and international position statements on e-cigarettes, health, and options for regulation: Cancer Council Victoria; 2020 [updated July 2020; cited 2020 August 2].
  19. Therapeutic Goods Administration. Importation of e-cigarettes containing nicotine (and nicotine-containing liquids for use in e-cigarettes) [updated 25 October 2019; cited 2020 14 October ].
  20. Spindle TR, Hiler MM, Cooke ME, Eissenberg T, Kendler KS, Dick DM. Electronic cigarette use and uptake of cigarette smoking: A longitudinal examination of U.S. college students. Addict Behav. 2017;67:66-72.
  21. Chatterjee K, Alzghoul B, Innabi A, Meena N. Is vaping a gateway to smoking: a review of the longitudinal studies. International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health2018.
  22. National Academies of Sciences E, and Medicine,. Public health consequences of e-cigarettes. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press; 2018.
  23. Soneji S, Barrington-Trimis JL, Wills TA, Leventhal AM, Unger JB, Gibson LA, et al. Association Between Initial Use of e-Cigarettes and Subsequent Cigarette Smoking Among Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA pediatrics. 2017;171(8):788-97.
  24. Berry KM, Fetterman JL, Benjamin EJ, Bhatnagar A, Barrington-Trimis JL, Leventhal AM, et al. Association of Electronic Cigarette Use With Subsequent Initiation of Tobacco Cigarettes in US Youths. JAMA Network Open. 2019;2(2).
  25. Amin S, Dunn AG, Laranjo L. Exposure to e-cigarette information and advertising in social media and e-cigarette use in Australia: A mixed methods study. Drug and Alcohol Dependence. 2020;213:108112.
  26. Erku DA, Morphett K, Steadman KJ, Gartner CE. Policy Debates Regarding Nicotine Vaping Products in Australia: A Qualitative Analysis of Submissions to a Government Inquiry from Health and Medical Organisations. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2019;16(22):4555.
  27. Pepper JK, Ribisl KM, Brewer NT. Adolescents interest in trying flavoured e-cigarettes. Tobacco Control. 2016;25(Suppl 2):ii62.
  28. Vasiljevic M, Petrescu DC, Marteau TM. Impact of advertisements promoting candy-like flavoured e-cigarettes on appeal of tobacco smoking among children: an experimental study. Tobacco Control. 2016;25(e2):e107.
  29. Goldenson NI, Kirkpatrick MG, Barrington-Trimis JL, Pang RD, McBeth JF, Pentz MA, et al. Effects of sweet flavorings and nicotine on the appeal and sensory properties of e-cigarettes among young adult vapers: Application of a novel methodology. Drug and alcohol dependence. 2016;168:176-80.
  30. Cancer Council Australia. Parents right to worry about e-cigarettes and kids, says Cancer Council 2020 [cited 2020 19 February ].