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Health professionals

Cancer Council WA have launched a new digital campaign, Clear the Air, in a bid to prevent people taking up vaping, following new data that shows the number of 14-24 year olds who currently vape has skyrocketed since 2020.

Cancer Council WA CEO, Ashley Reid, said the increase in vaping rates in Australia could undo decades of work done to protect young people from the harms of smoking.

“Earlier this year, Cancer Council WA received $375,000 from Healthway to develop the first WA-made vaping prevention campaign to raise awareness about vaping harms, prevent uptake among those susceptible to vaping, and encourage cessation among people already vaping regularly,” Mr Reid said.

“At first, it’s the bright colours and sweet flavours that lure young people to vapes, but it’s the highly addictive nicotine content that can keep them hooked.

“Young people have their whole lives ahead of them – we want to make sure vapes don’t affect their ability to live those lives to the fullest.”

National data shows that in 2020, two per cent of 14-17 year olds were vaping. By 2022 that number skyrocketed to almost 12 per cent, which is more than a five -fold increase.

In 2020, almost six per cent of those aged 18-24 years vaped. In 2022, that number had nearly quadrupled to more than 21 per cent.

“This increase is particularly concerning given that people who have never smoked and start vaping are three times more likely to take up smoking in the future.

Already, for the first time in decades, we are seeing an uptake in the rates of young people using tobacco,” he said.

Mr Reid said Cancer Council worked with Gatecrasher and young people to produce the Clear the Air advertisements showing the rotten truth about vapes, such as harmful chemicals, addictiveness, and nicotine poisoning, all of which are hidden behind the deceptively innocent flavours found in vapes.

“Each ‘Rotten Fruit’ advertisement begins by mimicking a colourful and fruity vape flavour advertisement,” he said.

“This quickly changes to a vape splitting apart to reveal confronting imagery related to the harmful truths about vapes, including a dead cockroach, a cadaver, a puddle of vomit, and a pile of cigarette butts.

“Many of the young people we spoke to about vaping were shocked to hear there are more than 240 chemicals in vapes, that a single vape can contain as much nicotine as three packs of cigarettes, and that too much nicotine can lead to serious health problems like nausea, vomiting and even seizures.

“The chemicals in vapes can not only harm people’s health and make them feel unwell, but also impact their everyday life.

“Symptoms like vomiting, breathlessness, headaches and lung irritation can make it harder to work or study and can stop you from doing the activities you love the most. The toxic chemicals in vapes even have the potential to cause serious medical emergencies.

“Clear the Air provides the facts that young people want to know, so we are confident the digital education campaign will combat growth in the use of e-cigarettes for people aged 14-24.”

Clear the Air campaign will run from 29 October 2023 to 30 June 2024 across Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitch, YouTube, streaming services, and mobile apps.

View the campaign

Support to quit vaping:

Campaign background and statistics

  • Cancer Council WA conducted focus groups to talk to 45 young people aged 14-24 years about their knowledge and views about vaping. Those findings were then used to create the ad concepts. The concepts then went to online ad testing with a further 440 young people aged 14-24 years.
    After watching the advertisements:
  • More than 62% of young people who vape felt less like vaping.
  • More than 60% of young people who don’t vape felt less likely to try vaping.
  •  61% of young people said they felt worried.
  • 70% of young people said they felt disgusted.
  • Young people reported that the advertisements made vapes look “dangerous and disgusting,” were a “reality check”, and motivated them to stay off vapes.
  • Young people – and their friends and families – can visit the new, interactive, Clear the Air website to fact-check and learn more about the information presented in the advertisements. There is also a quiz to help people find out if they’re addicted to vaping.

Vaping statistics and other health information

  • National data show a significant increase in current vaping between 2020 and 2022 among young people aged 14-24 years.
  • Between 2020 and 2022, the proportion of teens aged 14-17 years who currently vape increased by more than fivefold, from 2.1% in 2020 to 11.8% in 2022.
  • Similar increases were observed for young adults aged 18-24 years, with the proportion of people currently using vapes nearly quadrupling from 5.6% in 2020 to 21.4% in 2022.
  • Over the same time period, children aged 14-17 years who currently smoke increased from 4.8% in 2020 to 6.7% in 2022, with the most recent data from 2023 indicating that more than 12% of children aged 14-17 years smoke. This marks the first time in over 20 years that smoking rates have increased in this age group.
  • The “headspins” that young people report seeking when they vape are actually an indication of nicotine poisoning. Other signs of nicotine poisoning include:
        • Nausea & vomiting
        • Seizures
        • Feeling restless or irritable
        • Diarrhoea
        • Confusion
        • Abnormal or slow heartbeat, low blood pressure
        • Extreme tiredness
        • Coma
        • Breathlessness, slow breathing or even no breathing
  • Nicotine is an addictive drug that can harm the body and brain. It can even change brain chemistry, especially for people aged under 25.
  • Over 240 chemicals have been found in vapes so far-many of which are harmful to humans, including formaldehyde and 2-chlorophenol.
  •  Formaldehyde, also present in tobacco smoke, is a key ingredient in embalming fluid (used to preserve dead bodies) and is known to cause cancer.
  • 2-chlorophenol is used to kill insects and bacteria. When inhaled it can irritate the nose, eyes, and throat, and can cause muscle spasms.