Call now? 0407-542-655

Call Now

What is vaping?

What is vaping?

Vaping equipment is also known as: electronic cigarettes, e-cigs, personal vaporisers, e-hookahs, vape pens and vapes.

By Cheryl Critchley

Vaping involves the use of an e-cigarette – a battery operated device that heats a chemical solution that users inhale. Shaped like cigarettes, cigars, pens, USB flash drives, hoodie drawstrings or other common items, e-cigarettes contain e-liquid or ‘e-juice’ that comes in enticing flavours such as chocolate, bubble gum or various fruits.E-liquids contain a range of toxic chemicals, and often contain nicotine even if they are labelled ‘nicotine free’.

Who is doing it?

While older smokers often vape to give up smoking, more young people are also vaping. In Australia between 2016 and 2019, the number of current e-cigarette users aged 15-24 rose by about 72,000 (up 95.7%) to about 147,000.

This is concerning because Research has shown a strong association between e-cigarettes use by non-smoking youth and future smoking.

The dangers

Evidence is mounting that e-cigarettes are not safe.

Results from international studies indicate that they may be linked to lung disease. They don’t produce tar like conventional cigarettes, but many scientists are concerned that they can increase risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer.

Australia’s Therapeutic Good Administration warns that the impact of wide scale e-cigarette use is not known but could be harmful.

Some overseas studies suggest that those containing nicotine may deliver unreliable doses, or contain toxic chemicals, carcinogens, or leaking nicotine.

Leaked nicotine is a poison hazard for the user and others around them, particularly children. Dangerous and lethal doses can be absorbed through the skin.

The Australian Government’s Department of Health also warns that there is not enough evidence to promote the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation. Nor has the TGA approved any e-cigarettes for sale to help people quit smoking.

The TGA says Nicotine Replacement Therapy products have been approved as smoking withdrawal aids, but e-cigarettes have not been assessed. This means their quality, safety and efficacy are not known.

Nicotine-free e-cigarettes have not been assessed for safety.

Hazardous substances in e-cigarette liquids and aerosols include:

  • formaldehyde
  • acetaldehyde and acrolein, which can cause cancer
  • Some chemicals that can damage DNA.

Source: Australian Government Department of Health.

How do you get e-cigarettes?

Vapers import their nicotine from overseas.

From October 2021, they will need a prescription from an ‘authorised prescriber’ GP to legally access nicotine e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine. Child resistant closures for liquid nicotine will also be mandatory.

You can legally import nicotine-containing e-cigarettes, or the liquids used, under the Personal Importation Scheme if they are only used to help you quit smoking and you have a current valid prescription from an Australian-registered medical practitioner.

In most cases, nicotine-free e-cigarettes are legal, but this may vary between states and territories.
Most do not allow e-cigarettes use in places where cigarette smoking is also banned.For more information, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has an e-cigarette statement, the Australian Government has guiding principles and the CSIRO has conducted a literature review.What the expert says

Tobacco control expert Dr Michelle Jongenelis is concerned about the level of vaping by young people. “Australia has seen a tripling in e-cigarette use among adolescents and young adults,” she says.

Dr Jongenelis, a Senior Research Fellow at the Melbourne Centre for Behaviour Change in the University of Melbourne’s School of Psychological Sciences, investigates the pros and cons.

“Few youth are using the devices for smoking cessation purposes, so there really is no legitimate reason for teens and young people to be inhaling harmful chemicals that have a significant impact on their developing brain and health,” she says.

Dr Jongenelis says the new laws are encouraging and hopes they will make it harder for youth to access nicotine-containing e-liquids. “The new laws will not, however, change access to non-nicotine e-liquids,” she says. “These are also harmful, so we need to watch out for youth intake of these e-liquids too.”

Discussing vaping with your kids

  • Discuss vaping with your teenager as you do with any other drugs.
  • Chat to them about their desire to vape and where it is coming from.
  • Is it because they are curious? Because they think it is cool?
  • Discuss their beliefs about the outcomes of use.
  • Above all, don’t purchase the e-cigarette or e-liquids for them!

Source: University of Melbourne behaviour change expert Dr Michelle Jongenelis

Keeping It Real

Forensic psychologist Dr Russ Pratt says we must educate children about sexuality, pornography and consent from a young age.

While sexual harassment and assault concerns have existed forever across our school systems, the public disclosure of numerous incidents around Australia highlights just how extensive and thus problematically relevant these issues are for today’s educators, parents, and others.

When it comes to sexual and relational matters, young people are far more sophisticated, and exposed to so much more information than their parents and carers were as teenagers. However, the ‘basics’ should still apply when it comes to educating them about appropriate sexual and relationship behaviour.

Children and teens pick up so much information about sex and relationships from those around them. This generally starts with their parents and adult family members, and later, as teenagers, their same-age peers. Some of that information, particularly about sexual matters, but also about various other ideas they hear may range from fine, through to mildly problematic and then to plainly unacceptable. But how is a child or young teenager able to know that without appropriate guidance?

The key to ‘Keeping It Real’ is to provide good, practical ‘real-life’ education to our kids, starting from a young age, about consent and respect, using age-appropriate language and real-life examples. If we’re really serious, we need it to be a joint venture between schools, families and young people.

The importance of education

Schools should integrate information and teach children and young people about all aspects of relationships throughout their curriculum from the start of primary school and later, at the appropriate time, provide comprehensive relationally-based sex education with consistent messaging. ‘It’s not just about the mechanics!’ Some schools already do this well; others don’t.

Parents and carers also need to educate, instil good values, and set good examples, as we know that giving consistent, repetitive, and practical messages to teens, and then directly role modelling appropriate behaviours can – and WILL make a difference!

Role models are incredibly important, whether they be parents, carers, teachers, other adults, or older, pro-social teens. High profile incidents such as Canberra staffers filming themselves having sex in Parliament House, and politicians accused of sexual assault, do not have to be the ‘prevailing view’ of actions that our kids see or believe to be appropriate behaviours. We, as parents and educators should assist them to critique these images and messages that they see, hear, and sometimes are themselves exposed to.

Most young people want respectful relationships. But a small percentage feel entitled to treat others poorly. Let’s take 100 teenagers. Around half will understand the concept of respect and consent and live by it. Thirty-five more will require help with expectations and boundaries, and when given good direction will respect them. The final 5-10 per cent will ignore attempts to educate them; they feel entitled to act as they please, including sexually. This last group really need our help the most.

Navigating the online world

The online world has changed immensely over the past two decades. Inappropriate behaviour that in the past would be localised and managed, can now be recorded, amplified, and replayed. In a world where it becomes harder and harder to shock, the worse your behaviour is, the more likely bad behaviour  will get you noticed.

Take online pornography, which can create a warped view of what’s sexually normal or acceptable, and what to expect from partners (and what partners expect from you). By age 15, most young people have been exposed to porn willingly, by accident, or unwillingly. In many cases, boys believe they must replicate what they see to be a good lover, and girls feel they must consent to painful and sexually problematic acts.

What can we do? Well, Social Worker Cyra Fernandes and I developed the Savvy Consumer model to equip youth to critique pornography, to better understand the tenuous relationship of online pornography to real, everyday sex – and to treat pornography with the contempt it deserves. We still advocate a zero-tolerance approach for children aged under 12, but we want older youth to understand the physical and relational aspects of a sexual interaction. We also acknowledge that many young people handle porn well, but others need guidance.

No easy answers

Parents may find it hard to discuss these difficult topics, but the younger we lay the foundations for respectful behaviour, the better.

Issues around sex, respect, and consent are complex, and there’s no simple solutions. We can minimise harm, however, by appropriately educating children from a young age about sexual and relational matters, modelling good behaviours, and calling it out when we see bad behaviours.

As parents and teachers of the next generation, WE must do this work, or the internet will do it for us, and our children will live with the consequences. Don’t feel that you’re on your own with this stuff; there’s always help available to assist with giving kids valuable support in often tricky areas.

Forensic and Counselling Psychologist Dr Russ Pratt founded Prime Forensic Psychology and specialises in sexual abuse and child protection issues. www.primeforensicpsychology.com

What is drink spiking?

Drink spiking is illegal and dangerous. How can we minimise the risk?

 By Cheryl Critchley

 Drink spiking involves putting alcohol or drugs into someone’s drink without their knowledge or permission.

This is illegal in all states and territories. But it is often unreported as those who experience it may not remember what happened and/or fear their stories will not be taken seriously.

Drink spiking can happen anywhere, including night clubs, parties, festivals and private homes. Women are more likely to have their drinks spiked than men.

It may involve slipping alcohol into a non-alcoholic drink, adding extra alcohol to an alcoholic drink, or putting prescription or illegal drugs (e.g. benzodiazepinesamphetamines or GHB – also called liquid ecstasy) into any drink.

Those affected may become impaired and vulnerable to robbery and/or sexual assault. An estimated one third of drink spiking incidents are associated with sexual attack.

The Better Health Channel has a good summary: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/drink-spiking

What are the signs?

The effects of drink spiking will depend upon the type drug used, the amount, what it is mixed with, your size and what you’ve already consumed.

Some victims become lightheaded and confused and may lose consciousness or later forget what happened. If you feel that something’ not right, it probably isn’t. Tell a friend Reach out to venue staff, who can help.

Drink spiking symptoms may include:

  • feeling drunk, woozy or drowsy
  • feeling “out of it” or drunker than expected
  • mental confusion
  • speech difficulties (such as slurring)
  • memory loss
  • loss of inhibitions
  • nausea and vomiting
  • breathing problems
  • muscle spasms or seizures
  • loss of consciousness
  • an unusually long hangover
  • a severe hangover when you had little or no alcohol to drink.

Source: Better Health Channel

Protecting each other

Planning ahead and supporting each other while out can reduce the risk of drink spoking.

Victoria Police suggests that before going out:

  • tell someone where you are going
  • decide on a place to meet at the end of the night
  • carry the mobile phone numbers of your trusted friends
  • encourage one person in the group to be the ‘designated driver’

While out, avoid sharing drinks or accepting them from strangers, don’t leave drinks unattended and watch where all your drinks are coming from. Monitor bar staff preparing and serving your drinks and try not to become isolated from your group.

To protect yourself and your friends:

  • Party safely and socialise with trusted friends. Plan how you will watch out for each other.
  • Buy your own drinks.
  • If you are at a venue that serves drinks, watch the bartender prepare your drink.
  • Don’t accept drinks from strangers.
  • If you accept a drink from a stranger, accompany them to the bar and take it from the bartender yourself.
  • Don’t drink anything that has been spiked and call it out if you see others doing it.
  • Be wary if a stranger buys you a drink and it’s not what you requested.
  • Don’t take your eyes off your drink. If you need to leave (to go to the toilet or dance, for example), ask a trusted friend to keep watch.
  • Buy drinks in bottles with screw-top lids. Put it in your bag when you go to the toilet or dance.
  • Don’t consume your drink if you think it may have been spiked. Discuss your concerns with the manager or host.
  • Tell the manager or host immediately if you see someone spike a drink or suspect that drink spiking may be occurring.

Source: Better Health Channel

What to do if it happens

If you suspect drink spiking has occurred to you or someone else, alert a trusted person.

Try to find a safe space with the trusted person and watch anyone who may be affected.

If the person has an unusual reaction or is unwell, call Triple Zero (000) immediately and if needed go to a doctor or the closest hospital emergency department.

Tell health professionals you suspect drink spiking so urine and blood samples can be taken.

If you suspect a drug-assisted sexual assault has occurred, tell police or a sexual assault service such as the Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service (Australia).

Ambulance Victoria reassures young people that it doesn’t matter what they have taken, staff will treat them without judgment to ensure they are safe.

“Paramedics are here to help, but they need to know if someone has consumed drugs or alcohol and what is in their system to treat them effectively,” a spokesperson says.

“Conversations between paramedics and patients about such matters are confidential.”

Counting the cost

When drink spiking was raised on ABC Radio Melbourne, several parents revealed their children and young people they knew had had drinks spiked before being sexually assaulted.Victoria Police Chief Commissioner Shane Patton urges people to report such incidents to the police.

“I would absolutely urge anyone who’s been a victim of this kind of offending to come in and we will treat them with absolute confidentiality, we will be supportive and we will do our job,” he says.

“It is very much a crime. We can only act on what’s reported to us. We will believe them. We will act and we will investigate.”

Protecting patrons

Music Victoria’s Best Practice Guidelines encourage live music venues to ensure that staff are trained to observe and deal with any potential alcohol, drug or sexual harassment/assault issues.

The guidelines say staff should monitor patrons they believe may be the target of, or vulnerable to an instance of sexual harassment or assault, and actively monitor their wellbeing.

Patrons also need to know they can approach staff if needed, and appropriate action will be taken.

“All staff should be trained in how to identify and respond appropriately to incidents of sexual harassment or assault,” the guidelines say.

“Staff should be made aware that they will not be disadvantaged for reporting or responding to an instance of sexual harassment or assault within the venue.”

More information

Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia says one in three drink spiking incidents are associated with a sexual attack, and these incidents are vastly under-reported. Four out of five victims of drink spiking are female.

The service urges anyone who thinks they have been sexually assaulted, you can talk to experienced counsellors, who can help you decide what to do next.

Rape & Domestic Violence Services Australia

1800 Respect: National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service

NSW Rape Crisis
1800 424 017

Victoria’s Centres Against Sexual Assault (CASA)

Crime Stoppers

Realistic Ways to Talk to Teens About Alcohol

With everything parents worry about, it may surprise you to learn than Australian teenagers generally drink less alcohol today than previous generations did.

Even so, many of us struggle to hit the right note when talking about alcohol with teenage children.

We’ve put together some basic information to help you find the right words.

How much is too much alcohol?

National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) guidelines, which are under review, recommend that no alcohol is the best option for those under 18. Experts also advise parents and carers to model safe behaviours at home and while socialising.

Many don’t realise the influence their own habits can have. It is also important to be informed about the possible risks and be aware that your child is learning from your behaviour.

What if there’s a problem?

Psychologist Paula Ross says if you suspect your child may have a drug or alcohol problem, don’t make accusations but subtly note any behaviour changes.

“It can be helpful if parents and family members don’t jump to conclusions but instead start a conversation with their child about what might be happening — ‘I notice this, this and this. What is going on?'” she says.

Ms Ross says to stay calm and think about who is best placed to approach your teen empathetically. Expectations must also be realistic.

“You won’t have one conversation and find that your young person says, ‘You’re right, I’ll stop,'” she says.

Ms Ross says there is some debate around whether you disclose your own past (or present) substance use.

“Parents need to walk the line between disclosure with the aim of letting a child know that you understand, versus how much of your disclosure will your child hear as permission-giving,” she says.

Keeping it open and honest

Writer Cheryl Critchley has always spoken openly about alcohol with her children Jess, 21, Bec, 19, and Ben, 17.

“I don’t drink but my husband loves his beer,” she says.

“Our kids know about the pros and cons of drinking and we’ve discussed what we did at their age. We’ve talked about why people feel the need to drink, the dangers of overdoing it, and how alcohol is socially acceptable despite the harm it can cause.

“We also discuss the importance of looking out for each other around alcohol, which Jess and her friends do. She likes to drink but hasn’t had any issues.

“This year has been strange for Bec as she — and others her age — have had their socialising curtailed by COVID-19 restrictions. She has had a few drinks but decided it’s not much fun doing it by Facetime.

“By Ben’s age, most of our generation was drinking. He hasn’t had much if any alcohol yet. Ben likes energy drinks, so we’ve discussed them not having alcohol but being full of caffeine and sugar.”

Signs of misuse

There are no definitive warning signs of alcohol misuse. But a range of signs and behaviours that, combined, may indicate excessive drinking include:

  • Repeated health complaints
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Changes in mood, especially irritability
  • Starting arguments, withdrawing from the family or breaking family rules
  • Dropping grades, frequent school absences or discipline problems at school
  • Changes in social activities and social groups

Learning good habits

When your children are old enough to drink, encourage them to do so responsibly.

The Australian Government’s alcohol and young people page has practical advice around the law, risks and finding help if needed. For example, to avoid or reduce alcohol intake while out you can:

  • Say no to drinks — prepare and practise your responses before you head out
  • Drink something non-alcoholic like a mocktail
  • Choose low-strength alcohol
  • Count standard drinks to keep track
  • Set a limit for yourself

Starting that conversation

Headspace early psychosis services manager Kirsten Cleland says kids can feel uncomfortable speaking about tricky issues, so parents and carers should make themselves available.

“It’s important that you take this opportunity to engage with your young person, as this is the moment when they have come to you for help,” she says.

Ms Cleland says we should ask whether our child wants us to listen or fix something for them, with the aim of enabling them to have a degree of responsibility around decision-making.

“The decision might not be the one we would like, and it might blow up in their face, but as long as it’s not going to do harm then it’s a learning opportunity,” she says.

If you or a family member need help with alcohol issues:

Teens 101 Q&A

How is parenting a teen different from parenting a younger child?

Parenting children of all ages can be hard, but teenagers are often particularly challenging. As well as issues surrounding physical and emotional development, today’s teens must also navigate the online world. The more parents understand about adolescence, the better chance they have of successfully communicating with and guiding their teens through this important time in their lives.

What are the top five biggest mistakes parents make when parenting a teen?

All parents make mistakes and that’s to be expected – none of us are perfect. With teenagers, these may include:

  • Trying to be their friend
  • Too much or not enough discipline
  • Pressuring them to perform
  • Assuming that they don’t want to talk
  • Banning technology as  punishment

How can parents alter their parenting approach to be more effective?

Each child is different, so parents need to learn about their needs and educate themselves about what has worked for others over many years. The advice of qualified experts can be useful in guiding your approach, but your gut feeling and knowledge of your own child are also crucial. For example, an introverted teenager needs a different approach to one who is extroverted.

What do teenagers need most from their parents during their teen years?

Above all else, unconditional love, empathy and support. But teenagers also need and seek boundaries and guidance as they naturally try to assert their independence. The key is balancing these elements and encouraging honest and open communication.

How would Teens 101 help parents?

Modern parenting is a combination of instinct and education. In a fast-changing world, most parents and carers want some help with the many challenges parenting presents, such as deciding how much technology is too much. Teens 101 is full of expert advice, the latest research and case studies that are designed to help educate parents and start important conversations with their teenagers.

Sparking Important Conversations for Families

Helping families to be mentally strong and deal with the “tremendous challenges” they face is close to the heart of retired businessman and director David Corduff.

The grandfather of seven, volunteer, Beyond Blue Speaker and now Parent Guides ambassador
is passionate about mental health. He often sees parents, carers and children struggle to cope
with social media, cyber bullying, drugs, gambling, mental health, and respect.

“Parents need as much support and information as possible to be there for their children when
life challenges occur,” David says. “In an ever-changing world, parents need to access factual,
research-based information such as the Parent Guides.”


Run by Melbourne media identity Eileen Berry, Parent Guides help parents educate themselves about drugs, sex, social media, mental health and more. They present up-to-date research and expert advice in a ‘no holds barred’ way that tackles difficult issues and facilitates conversations.

“It is critical to have a resource such as the Guides, which are in hard copy and easily accessible to parents and children,” David says. “They are not ‘preachy’ and do not seek to offer solutions as such. They lead the way as a tool to initiate conversations between parents and children.”

David worked in manufacturing and has three children and seven grandchildren. Married to Liz for 45 years, he arrived from Ireland in 1971 and became an Australian citizen in 1988.

He is an advisor to the board at Presentation Family Centre on the Mornington Peninsula, which offers short-term low-cost respite facilities for families affected by adverse conditions. David also serves on the committee of community organisation Peninsula Voice.

David has had a long association with Parent Guides CEO Yvonne Hackett and more recently Eileen Berry. He says their publications are “top class, relevant and well researched”.

“They fill a gap in terms of parent/child communication, and I believe my life experience,
particularly within the mental health space, will be invaluable in promoting the publications and ’spreading the word’,” he says.

“They are an excellent resource and can fundamentally make a difference to the parent/child relationship.”

David is also a fan of Alan Hopgood’s superb play about suicide, Jess Chooses Life, and wants to see it and Parent Guides promoted more widely, particularly in schools.

“Life is always full of challenges,” David says. “It is our response to these challenges that determine whether the outcomes are good or not so good. In the critical parent/child relationship, it is very important to have resources such as the Parent Guides available, to underpin a supportive and potentially positive outcome.”

Parent Guides and Health Play

Parent Guides & HealthPlay

Parent Guides are a proud supporter of HealthPlay, a contemporary theatre company based in Melbourne.

In 2019, Parent Guides partnered with Healthy Play to deliver a successful play about mental health and teenage bullying. You can read more about the successful event here.

With their unique and humorous approach to health issues, they are writing and performing plays to educate and entertain. You can learn more about their four mental health plays for 2020 and previous plays below, and visit their website for bookings.

Parents Must Model Respectful Behaviour

Parent Guides “tell it like it is”.

With the consequences of bad behaviour and broken relationships in the media spotlight, a new guide aims to help parents and carers to develop in their children a sense of respect.

Melbourne media identity Eileen Berry says many topical issues, such as violence against women and generally abusive behaviour, stem from a lack of respect. She says most people are respectful, but a significant minority do not demonstrate it in public or at home.

“This can result in sexism, racism, violence and other destructive behaviours,” she says.

Respect 101 is the latest in Eileen’s Parent Guides series. It helps families define respect and encourage it in their children. “Respect 101 identifies what respectful behaviour is, how to turn disrespectful into respectful, how to create life-long relationships and how to embed respect within the culture of adolescence,” Eileen says.

Read more

Suicide – It’s Time We Talked

See the Play on the 29th of March. At Sacred Heart College, Retreat Road, Newtown – Geelong. Register and Get Your Free Tickets!


It’s time to talk about suicide:

A new and engaging production that combines a play about suicide with a panel of mental health experts will connect and bring people together in local communities.

Read more

Mental Health 101: Experts to discuss stress and anxiety.

A local library will tackle the important issue of youth mental health and well-being, with an open and interactive free information evening. This event will be for teenagers, their parents and carers.

Casey Cardinia Libraries will host Mental Health 101: Stress and Anxiety. Based on the Mental Health 101 parent guide produced by Melbourne media identity Eileen Berry.

The event, held on 28 March, will discuss mental health and related issues such as drugs, sex and social media.

Eileen will join an expert panel from Headspace and PoPsy to inform and spark conversations about how to manage mental health and well-being.

She says mental health is a huge concern for young people, with suicide the leading cause of death among Australians aged 15-44 (source: ABS).

“Parents and carers want to know how they can help their kids become resilient, minimise mental health issues and deal with them when they do arise,” Eileen says. “We want to encourage important conversations between adults and kids that can help achieve this.”

Read more