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Protecting kids from smoking and vaping before they start

Posted 31 May, 2024

World No Tobacco Day

Friday 31 May 2024

This World No Tobacco Day, Quit, Cancer Council Victoria and VicHealth renew their calls to stop the harmful tobacco and vaping industry from targeting young people to prevent nicotine addiction in children.

Shocking figures released by the World Health Organisation estimate that 37 million children aged 13-15 use tobacco, globally. While the rates of vaping around the world continue to skyrocket. It's time to quit

Rachael Andersen, Quit Director, says that while Australian services like Quitline stand ready to support young people who smoke or vape to quit, given the significant harms associated with their use, preventing uptake is always going to be better.

“We’ve seen double the number of Victorians contacting us to stop vaping in the past 12 months – heartbreakingly, some as young as 12. But no child should have access to addictive nicotine. Especially while their brain is still developing and they’re going through crucial educational milestones."

“We need to put a stop to predatory industry tactics which sell these addictive products to kids – online and in vape shops, near schools, alongside lollies and sugary drinks,” Ms Andersen added.

People who vape but have never smoked are three times as likely to go on to smoke, while there are high rates of dual usage and ‘product swapping’ between cigarettes and vapes by young people, especially.

Victorian Health Minister Mary Anne Thomas shared her concerns around the impact of harmful smoking and vaping.

“Smoking is still the most significant cause of disease in Victoria leading to cancer and stroke, as well as cardiovascular and kidney disease. We have made great progress in Victoria with smoking rates, but there is still a lot to do – especially among the under 18 cohort where we are working to reduce harm through once in a generation vaping reforms," said Minister Thomas.

“It’s no doubt Big Tobacco is deliberately targeting children to cultivate a new generation of customers addicted to vapes. If we can protect children before they start smoking or vaping, we’ll save them from a lifetime of nicotine dependence, possible ill-health or even death,” Ms Andersen concluded.

Thomas Jaspers’ father worked for Big Tobacco all through Thomas’s childhood.

“My Dad would bring home cigarettes as part of product testing as a ‘perk’ of his job. So naturally, I started smoking as a teenager, sneaking packs from the pantry and sharing with friends. After almost two decades of daily smoking I was breathing heavily walking upstairs, I felt unfit and I was just sick of it. It was time to quit,” Mr Jaspers added.

Thomas was also horrified to learn his beloved sausage dog, Albert, could be impacted by second-hand smoke. Knowing his behaviour was harming himself and his pet, Thomas successfully quit.

For Henry Jarvis, 35, finding competitive rowing and being on the water motivated him to finally end his almost pack-a-day habit after smoking from 16 to 26 years old.

“I was going to parties in my teens and it was the social thing to do, to smoke. Ten years later I joined a rowing club and my first training session on the river was incredible. But my lungs hurt. I hadn’t realised how much of an effect smoking had already had on me, and I knew I had to stop,” Mr Jarvis concluded.

VicHealth CEO Dr Sandro Demaio said raising awareness of the health impacts of tobacco and vaping was a critical step in protecting the health of young Australians.

“World No Tobacco Day is another important reminder of the insidious nature of the tobacco industry, which still kills more than 20,000 Australians every year. That’s why the new proposed vaping legislation is critical to ensuring Australia will once again be a world leader in tobacco control,” Dr Demaio said.

Globally and locally, smoking and vaping remains too high, and vulnerable children continue to be the targets of a predatory industry. The 2022-231 Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing National Drug Strategy Household Survey reported 1 in 12 or 1.8M Australians aged 14 and over smoke daily and about 1.5M Australians aged 14 and over currently vape. Vaping has almost tripled between 2019 (2.5%) and 2022-23 (7%) and is highest among young people aged 18-24 at 21% in 2022-23.

For support to stop smoking or vaping, connect with Quitline. You can message us on WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger @QuitVic, live chat through or request a call back at a time that suits you. From Mon – Fri 8am to 8pm qualified Quitline counsellors are ready to support you on your quitting journey.

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Media contact:

Prue Gildea - Quit Senior Media Advisor 0400 394 274

Quit is jointly funded by Cancer Council Victoria, VicHealth, and the Victorian Department of Health.

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