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New data shows Australians want action on e-cigarette crisis

22 Mar 2023
Media Release 4 min read

A new Cancer Council Victoria report shows growing public support for policy action to limit the availability and use of e-cigarettes.


A new Cancer Council Victoria report shows growing public support for policy action to limit the availability and use of e-cigarettes. Almost nine in ten Australian adults (87%) want government action to stop a new generation of Australians from becoming addicted to nicotine.

Other statistics from the report include Australian adults’ agreement with the following statements:
• E-cigarettes should be carefully regulated to stop a new generation of Australians from becoming addicted to nicotine (87%)
• E-cigarettes are highly addictive (81%)

The report was prepared by the Cancer Council Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer (CBRC) with data for collected through the Social Research Centre’s probability based-panel, Life in AustraliaTM.

The new data comes just weeks after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) received public submissions on proposed reforms to the regulation of nicotine vaping products, urging immediate action on nicotine vaping products.

In these submissions, Cancer Council Victoria and Quit called for strict border controls on the importation of all vaping products, to support enforcement by Victorian agencies and stop illegal sales.

“We need to improve regulation and the enforcement of vaping products to protect Australians from the many immediate and future health impacts of vaping. The laws that are in place are insufficient and they are being blatantly disregarded”, said Matthew Scanlon, Quit Director.

The 2022 Victorian Smoking and Health Survey showed that 77,200 Victorians who had previously never smoked had used e-cigarettes in the past year, tripling their risk of smoking uptake. The vaping epidemic threatens to undo five decades of world-leading tobacco control in Victoria.

Quit is jointly funded by Department of Health and VicHealth, as a program of Cancer Council Victoria. VicHealth CEO, Dr Sandro Demaio has joined public health experts calling for action.

“Australians are clearly concerned about these products and their effects on health. E-cigarettes can contain hundreds of toxic chemicals which shouldn’t be inhaled deep into our lungs,” Dr Demaio said.

“The vaping industry continues to exploit the next generation of young people through loopholes that enable e-cigarettes to be illegally marketed and sold without a prescription. With support across the country recognising this escalating public health challenge, we need urgent government action before it’s too late,” Dr Demaio added.

The CBRC report, commissioned by Cancer Council and Quit, also reveals that an increasing number of Australians understand the dangers of e-cigarettes. In 2022, more than eight in ten Australians (81%) agreed that e-cigarettes are highly addictive; a significant increase from 70% in 2021.

“Interestingly, this new data shows that the overwhelming majority (83%) of 18 to 24-year-olds agree that e-cigarettes are ‘highly addictive,” said Libby Jardine, Chair of Cancer Council’s Tobacco Issues Committee.

Data from the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey indicated that more than a quarter (26.1%) of Australians aged 18 to 24 have ever used e-cigarettes; the highest usage rate across all age groups. Despite high usage, this age group is just as likely to support stronger policy action (86%) as any other age group.

“Manufacturers and retailers are deliberately mislabeling e-cigarettes, claiming they don’t contain nicotine, to avoid getting caught importing or selling products illegally. Young people try them wrongly thinking they’re not going to get addicted,” Scanlon added.

Many of the flavours (such as “strawberry milk”, “fruit loops” and “cola ice”) are deliberately appealing to young people who are being unfairly targeted by an unscrupulous industry attempting to hook them on a highly addictive substance.

“The federal government must immediately take stronger action at the border to stop these products entering the country, whilst eliminating the supply of so-called ‘non-nicotine’ e-cigarettes,” added Jardine.

Todd Harper, CEO of Cancer Council Victoria said, “Quit is urging the Victorian government to crackdown on illegal retail sales and warehousing of nicotine e-cigarette products, and all vaping products to children. We call for stronger action to stop the supply and advertising of all e-cigarette products.”

“The longer we wait to fully enforce and strengthen existing laws, the more people we’ll see seeking medical care for nicotine addiction, poisoning, burns and lung injury. We can stop this, but only if all Australian governments step up now”, Jardine concluded.

Visit Cancer Council’s website for further information on how all governments can stop a new generation becoming addicted to nicotine.

For support to quit smoking or vaping, contact Quitline (13 7848).


Contact details For all media enquiries and interview opportunities, please contact: Prue Gildea, Senior Media Advisor, Quit Victoria M: 0400 394 274 E: [email protected]

Artwork by Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022
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VicHealth acknowledges the support of the Victorian Government.

Artwork Credit: Dexx (Gunditjmara/Boon Wurrung) ‘Mobs Coming Together’ 2022, acrylic on canvas. Learn more about this artwork.