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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

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

Q&A Kirsten Cleland

Kirsten Cleland has worked in the mental health field for more than 20 years

and in youth mental health for the past eight years with headspace.


”Parents know their children better than anyone else in the world. If you sense there is something going on for your child that is not usual, and it has happened consistently, see your GP.
If you sense your GP is not taking you seriously, then I strongly recommend you get a second opinion – maybe from a GP who specialises in young people or someone with an interest in mental health.”


”One of the reasons headspace was set up was that 75 per cent of all mental health difficulties occur before the age of 25. By mental health difficulties, I’m talking about social or family difficulties, bullying or stress at school and young people questioning their gender role or sexuality through to anxiety and depression.
It’s a time of massive change – puberty, the transition from primary to secondary school, young people making decisions about what they are going to do with their life and wanting to be more
independent from parents …”


”Kids can feel uncomfortable speaking with their parents about issues that are concerning them. So it is important for them to know who is in that young person’s life that they can talk to? A footy coach, teacher, mum, dad, grandparents, godparents. Make yourself available.
Kids always (often?) want to tell you the most important things as you’re walking out the door, making dinner or on a business call. It won’t always be at the most convenient time. It is 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. If you’re trying to start the conversation, evidence indicates statements help like ‘I’ve noticed… it seems like… I’m wondering… you don’t seem yourself, you seem really tired…’ Be inquiring rather than accusatory. You shut off the opportunity for communication if young people see it as potentially adversarial or feel they’re going to get in trouble.”


”I often say to my kids, ‘would you like me to fix this or would you like me to listen?’ By giving them an opportunity to decide what type of support is available you are allowing them to have a degree of control as well as letting them know you trust them to know what they need. Often, at first, they just want you to listen because listening is an opportunity to join around a shared concern. Then you can ask ‘what can I do?’, however you are enabling your child to have a degree of responsibility and you’re demonstrating you have faith in their ability to make decisions. That’s our job as parents – to help our kids made decisions. 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


”Young people can feel they have nothing of value to offer or they believe that what they have to say is important, especially if they are feeling so awful in themselves. Check-in with them regularly – tell them you’re making a cup of tea and would they like something? If they say no, ask again in an hour. Make their favorite meal for dinner and If they don’t leave their room, take a plate to them. Or sit with them and let them know you’ve noticed they are not themselves. Even if you’re not getting much back, the young person sees that mum or dad are reliable and are there for them. Remember to be consistent in what you say and do, and to follow through as this will demonstrate your reliability to them as a support.”

// Kirsten Cleland is a manager with headspace Early Psychosis Services and a former centre manager – headspace Elsternwick & headspace Bentleigh.

Kirsten Cleland. Headspace