Australia’s most populous state is swinging hard against vapes with a new $6.8m crackdown as fears grow over the damaging effects of e-cigarettes on children.
NSW Premier Chris Minns said his government would allocate $4.3m over three years to keep vaping products properly controlled and a further $2.5m over 12 months to help kids quit with a new digital platform, improvements to the iCanQuit platform and an online learning module for youth services across the state.
“We’re committed to taking the fight against illegal vapes, particularly to protect children and young people from the dangers of vaping,” he said on Monday.
“The evidence suggests that vaping is now becoming a gateway for an increase in smoking rates in young people.
“This is a significant public health challenge and taking action on the illegal imports of vapes is going to require co-operation with all levels of government.”
In early September, NSW Health inspectors ran a targeted campaign to crack down on illicit vapes, seizing 23,247 devices with a street value of more than $695,000.
From January 1 to June 30 this year, NSW Health seized 187,000 products, up from 61,000 in the same period in 2022.
The health body has also conducted more than 5000 inspections and seized about 369,000 nicotine vapes and e-liquids with an estimated street value of more than $11.8m.
The rising crackdown comes as fears for vaping’s negative health affects on children grow.
The University of Wollongong, in research funded and commissioned by NSW Health, tested 428 vapes seized from retailers and 322 vapes surrendered by children at Sydney schools for nicotine and other toxic chemicals.
High nicotine concentrations were detected in 737 of the 750 devices even though most of the vapes did not have nicotine listed as an active ingredient.
Thirty of the devices contained at least one substance known to harm health, including toxic chemicals banned from legal nicotine containing vapes like ethylene glycol, which is found in antifreeze.
For young people, nicotine can cause changes to brain development and impair learning and memory.
“The University of Wollongong research shows there is no such thing as a safe vape as you just don’t know what is in them,” NSW chief health officer Kerry Chant said.
“This is especially true for children who are increasingly being exposed to high concentrations of nicotine and in some cases known toxic substances.
“As more vapes become available, we are seeing more people seeking help from health services for vaping-related health issues.
“The number of vaping-related calls to the NSW Poison Information Centre has tripled since 2020.
“What is most concerning is 71 per cent of these calls were about nicotine poisonings in children under four years of age.”
In May, the federal government banned the import of non-prescription vape products.