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Alarming rise in e-cigarette usage and purchasing behaviours in Victoria

Posted 20 Oct, 2022

Call for urgent legislative reform as new data reveals alarming rise in e-cigarette usage and purchasing behaviours in Victoria

New data (PDF) [1] released today shows almost double the number of Victorian adults report vaping in 2022 (estimated 308,827 users) compared to 2018-19 (estimated 154,895 users). Almost one quarter of all Victorian adults currently using e-cigarettes have never smoked.

The Victorian Smoking & Health Survey conducted by Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, and funded by VicHealth, reports young Victorians aged 18-30 make up the largest proportion of current e-cigarette users (54%).

These latest findings have prompted fresh calls for urgent government action to set a higher standard for an industry determined to addict a whole new generation to nicotine.

Cancer Council Victoria CEO, Todd Harper drew particular attention to data showing large numbers of past year e-cigarette users in Victoria say they purchased their products in a bricks and mortar store. 

“Despite it being illegal to sell, possess or use liquids containing nicotine in an e-cigarette, our data shows bricks and mortar stores like tobacconists, vape stores, and milkbars are selling these harmful products to more than 7 in 10 (73%) users who vape nicotine.”

“We know that the e-cigarette availability problem is magnified when it comes to children; many as young as 12 and 13 years old. The trends are worrying, and immediate action must be taken to prevent retailers from doing the wrong thing.”

“Cancer Council Victoria and VicHealth are calling on all parties ahead of the election to commit to the introduction of retail licencing to ensure they know exactly who is selling e-cigarette products to enforce the illegal sale of e-cigarette products.

Quit Director, Dr Sarah White said the ready availability of illegal e-cigarettes is likely to undo decades of success in tobacco control, with calls to Quitline already showing people struggling with quitting vaping.

"We have an estimated 77,200 never smokers reporting they are currently using e-cigarettes, and more than half of past year e-cigarette users are vaping nicotine. At a time when, as a society, we are trying to reduce preventable ill-health, this is a slow-motion train wreck for Victoria.”

Previous research (PDF) by Quit and Cancer Council [2] has shown a vast majority of Australians (83%) support action to regulate and enforce e-cigarettes sales to prevent companies, including the tobacco industry, from addicting a new generation to nicotine.

Dr Sandro Demaio, CEO of VicHealth, said he was concerned about the impending health impacts, as e-cigarettes contain dozens of toxic chemicals. These include formaldehyde and heavy metals, which can cause cancer and damage the brain and lungs.

“E-cigarettes present a very real danger to our community – especially for children and young adults,” Dr Demaio said.

“We know a lot of the same chemicals and carcinogens in tobacco processing are contained in e-cigarette liquids.”

If we want Victorians to live longer, healthier lives, we urgently need effective regulation of vaping that puts the health of our community first.”

Cancer Council Victoria, Quit and VicHealth are calling for:

  1. Victorian Government to introduce a retail licensing scheme that will identify, deter and, if necessary, penalise retailers breaking the law by selling harmful e-cigarette products to minors and adult

  2. The federal government to do more to stop unlawful e-cigarette imports.


Victorian Smoking and Health Survey: Conducted by Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, it is a population-representative survey of Victorians aged 18 years and older. The survey was most recently conducted in 2022. A copy of the full report is available on the Cancer Council Victoria website (PDF).

Legalities: In Victoria it is illegal to sell an e-cigarette devices or e-cigarette accessories containing nicotine. This includes e-liquid capsules or containers. It is illegal to sell the same products to a person under 18 years old, regardless of whether they contain nicotine.  While local councils can conduct checks on sales of e-cigarettes containing nicotine and sales to minors, only Victoria Police can enforce the laws against selling nicotine e-cigarettes.

[1] Source: E-cigarette use and purchasing behaviour among Victorian adults: Findings from the 2018-19 and 2022 Victorian Smoking and Health Surveys, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, October 2022

[2] Source: Perceptions of and support for policies to regulate e-cigarettes among Australian adults, Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, August 2022


For all media enquiries contact Prue Gildea, Senior Media Advisor Ph: +61 03 9514 6577 or email

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