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Time to stand up for our children

Time to stand up for our children

Every Tasmanian parent wants the very best for their children. We want them to be safe, healthy, and happy.

There is a new battle emerging in the public health arena, and the health and safety of our children is very much at stake.

Vaping is poised to condemn another generation to addiction and chronic disease – just as sure as tobacco smoking has done to generations before; evidence suggests non-smokers who start vaping are three times more likely to switch to smoking continuing the cycle of ill health and lifelong battles with addiction.

According to the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, there were 227,000 people reporting daily use of e-cigerettes aged 14 years and over, this has increased significantly since then; making the need for generational change ever more critical.

While the extent of the problem is only just emerging, we know that children are in the firing line. Research suggests vaping is growing most rapidly among young people – to the point where one school in southern Tasmania has resorted to removing toilet cubicle doors in an, albeit controversial, attempt to discourage vaping.

Quit Tasmania Director Abby Smith said ‘although we are waiting for new vaping data among Tasmanian secondary school students, which will be available later this year, we know from other Australian jurisdictions that about 1 in 3 young people aged 14-17 years have used e-cigarettes.’

St.LukesHealth has submitted to the Therapeutic Goods Administration that the time is now to be bold and place tough controls on vaping. Controls which need to be unapologetically strict, well enforced, and geared toward protecting our children from an industry that has a new ‘in’, by marketing harmful substances to young people as if they were selling lollies.

The cross-sectional Generation Vape study in 2022 (NSW) highlighted how ‘Flavourings and taste’ was rated as the most important characteristic of vapes.

We have asked the TGA to place significantly tighter controls around nicotine containing vapes additionally we are also advocating for a tighter regulation of all vaping products, nicotine containing or not. Big Tobacco should not be allowed to peddle ‘flavoured’ vapes – regardless of whether they contain nicotine or not to young Tasmanians.

We don’t believe our children should be encouraged to take up a habit that increases the risk of them fighting addiction that may just last their entire lives, while shortening them, costing taxpayers massive amounts in chronic disease care along the way.

In the instances that a medical professional feels a patient may benefit from using nicotine containing vapes to cease smoking, they can still be prescribed and sold accordingly, but the import of any vapes, or the fluid they contain, for any other reason, must be banned.

We are asking government, both state and federal, as well as the governance bodies they control, to stand up and support generational change. We must act to stop another generation or more from being unhealthy, simply because it is a victim of a fatal addiction.

We need to set health policies to support good health – not health policies that support an industry to continue making money from addiction and terrible health outcomes.

This is a no-brainer in terms of protecting our kids and giving us all a chance to make Tasmania a much healthier place in the future.

Paul Lupo is the CEO of St.LukesHealth.