The addictive issues facing Generation Vape

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

The findings from the Generation Vape study, led by the Cancer Council New South Wales (CCNSW), show more than two-thirds of 14 to 17-year-olds had knowingly used vapes containing nicotine.

CCNSW leads the Generation Vape project in partnership with the Daffodil Centre and the University of Sydney, along with state and federal government health partners and philanthropic partner Minderoo Foundation.

Generation Vape is the first and largest national research project of its kind in Australia. The research provides critical insights into educational resources, public health policy, and programs, and highlights vaping as an issue demanding urgent policy action.

Although current laws mean e-cigarettes containing nicotine are only legally available with a prescription, the government figures reveal the reality is that the number of 14 to 17-year-olds who vape are rising – up from one per cent five years ago to 14.5 per cent today.

- Advertisement -

Psychologist Professor Claire Wakefield works for the Minderoo Foundation and is part of a separate research project. She said the issue is so serious that young people have told her they couldn’t get through an exam without nicotine.

“They’re actually needing to wear nicotine patches to get through an exam of three hours, which is just kind of mind-blowing, isn’t it?” she said.

“And similarly, in the younger years, we’re hearing about teenagers who are taking nicotine patches to school camp.

“And I mean, that just breaks my heart because I think school camp is a time to connect with your friends, learn new skills, and yet there’s kids going through nicotine withdrawal, taking patches, so that they can feel comfortable during camp.”

- Advertisement -

The study found parents believe preventing their child from vaping is a high priority, while three in four teachers also reported addressing vaping as a high priority.

For already under-resourced schools, though, dealing with the problem is proving challenging, with principals admitted managing the vaping crisis is becoming increasingly difficult.

Vaping Roundtable seeks solutions

In NSW, students are invited to join a roundtable into reducing the vaping in the state’s schools.

The round table – held on 16 November – will bring school principals, health experts and other key stakeholders, including NSW’s chief health officer Kerry Chant, Cancer Council NSW’s Tobacco Control Unit Alecia Brookes and University of Sydney School of Public Health Associate Professor Becky Freeman, together.

The panel will also include the NSW Department of Education, members of the NSW Teachers Federation, as well as representatives from the NSW P & C Federation and NSW Advocate for Children and Young People.

- Advertisement -

The findings will help implement policies aimed at curbing the harmful habit, with e-cigarettes containing toxic chemicals like ethylene glycol – a compound also found in antifreeze.

Despite seeing smoking rates dropping to historic lows, NSW Premier Chris Minns said evidence now suggested vaping was becoming a gateway for smoking in young people.

“This is a way to hear directly from schools, health experts and other key stakeholders on how we can begin to address this serious health issue in our schools,” he said.

The government has committed $6.8m across the next three years to crack down on the sale of illegal vapes.

Between January 1 to June 30 this year, NSW Health seized a record-breaking 187,000 illegal vaping products. Retailers caught selling vapes illegally face serious sanctions and punishments including up to six months jail.

- Advertisement -

A total of $4.3m will help boost compliance and enforcement measures in the retail, wholesale, manufacturing, and pharmaceutical settings for vapes. An additional $2.5m – delivered in the next year – will also fund initiatives aimed at helping young people quit vaping, including enhancements to the iCanQuit initiative.

Quitline 13 7848, or visit

Share This Article
Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]