Wake-up call for teen vapers


FLAVOURED e-cigarettes, even those without liquid nicotine, are dangerous and likely to kill the cells that line the airways, a new Australian study has discovered.

The findings are a wake-up call for the skyrocketing number of Queensland teenagers caught up in the global vaping phenomenon - a trend that has sparked the state's top medical experts to call for a crackdown on the unregulated products.

They say they companies are targeting children with claims that lolly-flavoured vaping products are harmless and want a reining in of the sale of these nicotine-laced products that have not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Serious fears are growing over the link between e-cigarettes and lethal lung disease following eight vaping-related deaths in the US and hundreds of diagnosed cases. Canada has just announced its first vaping hospitalisation. Vaping was once reserved mostly for smokers trying to quit but now vapers are often non tobacco smokers.

In 2016, five per cent of Queensland teenagers were smoking cigarettes daily and in the same year eight per cent, or tens of thousands of youths, were using e-cigarettes.

Scientists from the University of Adelaide and the Royal Adelaide Hospital found that the vapour from e-cigarettes was toxic to cells and could trigger cell death, The vapour also disrupts the burying of the dead cells by the immune system.

"The problem with e-cigarettes is they are not a food and not a medical device so neither the TGA or FSANZ are responsible for regulating them. There is no government body currently able to regulate what ingredients go into E-liquids beyond not allowing nicotine in commercial products," Dr Miranda Ween from the Royal Adelaide Hospital told The Courier-Mail.

"This study really reveals that no two E-liquids are going to be the same. Apple E-liquid from one supplier may be very different from Apple from another. There is no requirement to list ingredients on the label," she said.

The research appears today in the medical journal Respirology.

"The Queensland Government and the community needs to make these companies accountable for their unethical behaviour, as they are marketing products that will cost lives," Australian Medical Association Queensland president Dr Dilip Dhupelia told The Courier-Mail.

"If we don't stop this now, we will have the same epidemic as they are currently experiencing in the US, at great cost to our already overstretched health system in Queensland," Dr Dhupelia said.

The Cancer Council Queensland chief Chris McMillan has joined the call for a crackdown on the sale of nicotine products that do not have TGA approval.

In the US e-cigarettes were the most common type of tobacco product used by teens in 2016.

The 2016 National Youth Tobacco Survey found that almost one third of these students were attracted to flavours like mint or chocolate and 17 per cent thought they were less harmful than cigarettes.