Spotlight On: Vaping/E-cigarettes

4 November 2022


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 4 November, 2022

What is it?

E-cigarettes (known as vaping throughout this article) are battery powered devices which heat liquids to produce an aerosol that is then inhaled.

The aerosols contain and emit many harmful compounds including propylene glycol, which is toxic to human cells, formaldehyde and acrolein, which can cause irreversible lung damage.

These are the substances we know about, but scientific studies have shown that many other substances are not identified on labelling by the manufacturers and many of these are potentially harmful.

A major concern about vaping in young people is the likelihood that this will lead to cigarette smoking. A review of global evidence by the Australian National University has shown that young people who vape are three times more likely to go on to smoke cigarettes.

E-cigarettes may or may not contain nicotine and as the labelling is often inaccurate, even a consumer who actively chooses nicotine-free products may end up vaping nicotine. Nicotine is, as we know, highly addictive, and is particularly dangerous to the adolescent brain in areas that control attention, learning, mood and behavioural control as well as susceptibility to addiction. Whereas filtered cigarettes usually have between 13 – 30mg mg nicotine, vapes may have up to 36 mg.  A single vape device may contain the nicotine equivalent of 50 cigarettes or more.

I have noticed vaping and e-cigarette shops popping up without much fanfare in the area in which I live, which is not surprising given the rapidly growing market, which is expected to be worth USD 40.25 billion by 2028 in the US alone.

What are the vaping laws?

In NSW, nicotine-free vaping devices may be sold but advertising and promotion are banned. Last year, regulations changed so that vaping products with nicotine can only be purchased with a doctor’s prescription. As noted, however, the regulation of e-cigarettes in Australia and around the world is patchy and vapes are easily available to young people, even when they are banned. In addition, it is clear that many vapes sold in Australia as non-nicotine actually do contain nicotine.

With such loose regulation and enforcement, it is not surprising that 14% of 12-17 year olds have vaped and it is difficult for parents to determine whether their child is vaping. Vapes don’t look anything like traditional tobacco products – would you recognise one of these as a vaping device if you saw it on your daughter’s desk? Have you had a conversation with your daughter about vaping recently?

With vaping increasing amongst school students and devices being sold to children, vaping is now recognised as a significant ‘gateway’ to future uptake of cigarette smoking and further risk and health complications.

What are Australian Health Organisations saying?

Several key Australian health organisations, such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) have published positions on vaping, sharing the following messages:

  • There is insufficient evidence to promote the use of vaping for smoking cessation.
  • There is increasing evidence of health harms.
  • Vaping may normalise the act of smoking and attract young people.
  • Vaping should be more properly regulated.

Source: Vaping in Australia - Alcohol and Drug Foundation (

Whilst advertising and promotion are illegal, companies can use other strategies to target our youth. Social media has been found to play a role as both an information source and as a means of exposure to vaping advertising in Australia.

Vaping companies are also glamourising their products to appeal to young people. They refer to the vape liquid as ‘juice’, with its subtle associations with health, and market flavours such as Menthol Freeze, Berry Bash, Appletini, Fresh Mint, Mango Tango and Watermelon Wave. The choice of wording aims to attract young people and even presents these liquids as healthy.

What can parents do?

A good place to start is by downloading this pack from the Lung Foundation and opening a conversation with your daughter using these tips:

  1. Start with information
  2. Approach it calmly
  3. Don’t make assumptions
  4. Avoid judging or lecturing
  5. Use facts to explain the health concerns
  6. Use real and appropriate consequences if you become aware of vaping

Nicotine is highly addictive and it is possible your daughter may need medical help to overcome this addiction – of which she may not be even be aware. Always talk to your GP. The Quitline 13 78 48 ( is also developing resources to help young people overcome vaping addiction.

Queenwood’s response

Schools need to be realistic about vaping. It is much harder to detect than cigarette smoke and the vapes are harder to spot. We monitor girls’ behaviour at school but, as always, the strongest line of defence is education.

Girls in the Senior School are educated through our wellbeing programs and as part of the PDHPE curriculum, and parents are key partners. Please do read through the links in this article and below and arm yourself with information. You could also watch the recent 4 Corners investigation together and use it as a conversation starter.

It is our aim at Queenwood to equip our girls to make informed and wise decisions about their own lives. Working together with parents gives us the best chance of keeping our girls in that 86% of 12-17 year olds who have not tried vaping.