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CANBERRA, Australia: Vaping poses significant risks to both general and oral health, a concern that has grown with the rapid increase in e-cigarette use, especially among younger people. Despite their popularity among smokers wishing to kick the habit, research shows that e-cigarette products should not be recommended as primary treatments for smoking cessation. This is because of their associated health risks, which can rival or even exceed those of traditional tobacco products.
According to the information provided on the Australian government’s official website, research suggests a strong association between vaping and future smoking behaviours. Data shows that young people who vape triple their likelihood of taking up smoking cigarettes. Additionally, e-cigarette use for smoking cessation remains controversial. Research demonstrates that many e-cigarette users continue to use conventional tobacco products while transitioning to vaping, which exposes them to increased levels of toxic chemicals and can be detrimental to oral and overall health.
“Vaping is creating a whole new generation of nicotine dependency in our community. It poses a major threat to Australia’s success in tobacco control,” Mark Butler, Australian minister for health and aged care, said in a press release. “Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit. It was not sold as a recreational product—especially not one targeted to our kids but that is what it has become,” he continued.
In response to the widespread vaping crisis, the Australian government is taking a firm stance on vaping by implementing legislation that is more robust, enhancing enforcement and providing education and support on quitting to vapers. As of 1 October 2021, Australians need a prescription to legally obtain nicotine-infused e-cigarette products. From 1 January 2024, the government has imposed strict restrictions pertaining to the importation, availability, advertising and sale of e-cigarette products and liquids, both nicotine and non-nicotine-based. Plans are also in place to completely stop the import and sale of non-prescription vapes from this year.
Additionally, the Therapeutic Goods Administration is working on introducing strong regulations that will only allow retailers to sell all e-cigarette products in pharmacies and only on prescription. The government also intends to increase the minimum quality standards for vapes, require pharmaceutical-like packaging and reduce the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes. It is also planning to ban all single-use, disposable vapes altogether.
Curbing nicotine addiction in Australia
The objectives of the government’s reforms in regulating e-cigarettes are multifaceted. Firstly, they aim to prevent and reduce nicotine addiction, which is a growing concern worldwide. The government aims to de-normalise vaping, altering public perception to view it as a health risk rather than as a harmless trend. Additionally, the restrictions are designed to encourage and support individuals in their efforts to quit e-cigarettes. This is complemented by increasing community support for quitting and fostering an environment where cessation is not only encouraged but actively supported. Lastly, the final goal of the reform is to reduce the tendency of individuals to substitute smoking for vaping or vice versa, promoting complete cessation instead.
“Vaping is creating a whole new generation of nicotine dependency in our community.”—Mark Butler, Australian minister for health and aged care
Vaping bans already exist in countries such as Brazil, India and Thailand. Other countries, including France, Germany and the UK, are considering banning single-use vapes from this year.
According to data from 2022 provided by the Australian Bureau of Statistics, 14.4% of adults had used e-cigarette and vaping devices at least once, while 4.0% reported currently using a device. Additionally, 17.9% of people aged 15–17 years and 38.0% of young adults aged 18–24 years reported using vaping devices.
Vaping and oral health
Research on the effects of vaping on oral health is unequivocal: there is an indisputable link between e-cigarette use and deteriorating oral health. For example, Dental Tribune International has reported on studies that found that vaping increased the risk of developing caries in patients and highlighted its unique connection to periodontal disease.