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

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

Ice Rips Apart Melbourne Family

ABC Radio Melbourne morning presenter Jon Faine accepted an invitation from a listener to sit down have a cup of tea and talk about what’s happened in his family. “Tony”, as he asked to be called, wanted his story to be heard by a wider audience.

JF: Let’s start at the beginning. Tell us, what happened?

Tony: I guess the best place to start would be, nearly on three years ago now my wife and I received two distressing calls from two of our oldest sons.

JF: You have how many children altogether?

Tony:Four. We’ve lived in our community for over thirty years. Like all parents we’ve always wanted to do the right things and we’re very connected in the community. A loving family, grandparents who adored the grandchildren but on this particular day we received two distressing calls separately. One to me and one to my wife. It was basically screaming coming over the phone. There was the mention of “He’s going to shoot me”. I grabbed my wife, we jumped in the car and we went to this place, which happened to be my parents house, about 10 minutes away. We got there and as we were rounding the corner there was over 30 police cars, there were helicopters. It was like a scene out of some sort of movie. There were the tapes they put across the road. Well, I disregarded the tapes and drove through them and I could see my younger of my two older boys lying on the ground.

JF: He’s how old?

Tony: At the time he was approximately 25. As with anything like that of course what you’re hoping for is to see some kind of movement. He was just lying there so we had no idea whether he was dead, alive or whatever.

JF: Were there police nearby?

Tony: There were over two-dozen police …

JF: No, no. Nearby him specifically? On the ground.

Read more

Parents Can’t Always Drag a Young Person to get Help

Since YoDAA began we’ve had thousands of contacts. We often find parents have no idea what they need or want. They are overwhelmed and recognise they need something, but they don’t know what. They simply need to talk to someone. and it’s our job to listen, to provide information and strategies, and to refer parents on to other services when needed.

We help parents who are just finding out about experimentation with drugs right through to those who have children in a treatment service. We find there are particular types of information parents and carers want to know (compared to young people, schools or youth workers) when they contact YoDAA.

‘How would I know if someone in my home is using? How would I know if someone in my home is dealing?’ ‘I’ve just hacked my son or daughter’s Facebook page and found out they are using drugs – what do I do?’ ‘My son has been discharged from a treatment service, I don’t think he’s ready to come home’.

There’s something specific about the teenage years and moving from a period of complete dependence to being an independent adult, taking responsibility and making your own decisions. That middle stage is a transition.

We read a lot about the teenage brain, that young people haven’t got that executive function yet and so they rely more on emotions and impulses to make decisions. But young people need experiences to learn to be able to make decisions. So there’s a real tension in parenting adolescents to gradually give over responsibility and autonomy but still have safety nets.


Every bone in our body wants to make the immediate OK. So with drugs and alcohol it is horrific to consider letting a young person manage their own risk, because what if they go out tonight and something happens? The emotional want and need is to make tonight OK. So if your son or daughter is safely in their bedroom, you can sleep tonight. But we know that won’t produce a life-skilled 21-year-old.
Read more

Heath Ledger’s Dad: Mixing Prescription Drugs Killed My Son

Kim Ledger’s actor son, Heath, was killed by an accidental overdose of prescription medication.

Kim Ledger’s actor son, Heath, was killed by an accidental overdose of prescription medication.Very few people have any idea of the extent of prescription pill addiction in Australia. It is a terrifying problem. We are losing more people through prescription medication misuse than through ice. The non-medical use of prescription drugs is 21 times more common than heroin, and one in 10 people on prescription medication will develop some kind of dependency.

When my son, Heath, was caught he was only using medication to try and treat a bad chest infection. He was part-way through filming Doctor Parnassus and was travelling a lot between Vancouver, London and New York. He needed to sleep better and had an Ambien or two to help achieve it – that mix of prescription medication caused Heath to sleep permanently. Read more

Kids are Well Informed, But Parents Need Up-To-Date Information About Drugs and Alcohol Too

The Vanessa fleet of breath-testing vehicles.

I recently spent two years working with young people and young children who are in kinship care. I also love music. It’s one of my passions and one of my self-care skills within my work. As such, I often find myself at music festivals.

Something else I did while I was at university was to work with an initiative through the Transport Accident Commission. We would go to music festivals and other youth-orientated events in a huge orange bus called Vanessa and engage young people in conversations around the dangers of drink and drug driving.

It’s a high minimisation approach. We weren’t out there saying, “Do not drink and do not do drugs,” because that approach alienates people. Continually saying, “don’t do it” will only make a young person want to try, or push them away. Read more

A Parents Guide to Steroids

Gym Weights

Steroids and other performance and image-enhancing drugs (PIEDs) have long been associated with elite sportspeople desperate for an edge. PIEDs are used by people of all skill levels and ages, whether they want to boost their sporting performance or simply build muscle mass.

Among the most notorious cases was champion cyclist Lance Armstrong, who was stripped of seven Tour de France wins after admitting he took EPO (erythropoietin), which regulates red blood cell production.

PIED use is not common and in some cases, steroids are used legitimately to treat medical conditions such as osteoporosis. But if used privately and without professional supervision they can have health implications.

Steroids may be injected intramuscularly, taken orally or rubbed on the skin as a cream. Two per cent of Australian high-school students aged 12 to 17 say they have used steroids without a doctor’s prescription, with boys (2.4 per cent) slightly more likely than girls (1.5 per cent) to have tried them.

Among the 1 per cent of students who tried steroids in the year before the 2011 survey, use was infrequent. Read more

We’re in this together

Firbank Panel Night

Parent Guides Panel Night at Firbank for Drugs 101

Our aim at Firbank is to help students develop the confidence, courage and skills they need to make their mark in their own world and in the world they will enter.

Firbank is a school where students not only aspire, but they ‘do’. It is the place where students, particularly adolescents, form the beliefs and values that will set them up for their life journey. Our school values of courage, respect, compassion, curiosity and integrity are key. But we have to live those values. And many of those values are pertinent to the issue tackled in Drugs 101. Read more

Relationships are key in preventing teen alcohol abuse

Dr Hanna Cheng

Psychologist, Dr Hanna Cheng

The Austin Hospital’s child and adolescent psychiatrist Dr Hanna Cheng has specialised in this field for four years.

CAMHS at the Austin looks after children from zero to 18 years of age. We have a multidisciplinary team with clinical psychologists, nurses, occupational therapists, speech therapists, social workers, training registrars and psychiatrists.

A range of people refer children to us – parents, general practitioners, paediatricians, private psychiatrists and psychologists, schools and the Department of Human Services.

Initially we do an assessment to establish the presenting difficulties and one of our team takes on a care co-ordination role and looks at any psychological interventions received up to this point, social skills, drug and alcohol use, and family relationships. They meet with the school to work out a curriculum and to identify any special needs in that area. Read more

What do you do if your kids are drinking or doing drugs?

Rene de Sant'Anna - Odyssey House

Rene de Sant’Anna – Odyssey House

My core business is working with young people who are using substances and helping them to cut down or get off those substances. I’ve been working in this field for 22 years and the main substances kids use are the same – alcohol and cannabis. They may hav tried LSD, mushrooms, eccies (ecstasy) or cocaine, but their staple drug is usually cannabis or alcohol. Usually their parents refer them to me, and a young person is reluctant because they don’t see a problem – then we need to get that young person to a point where they also see their substance use is a problem.

People use drugs because they change the way they feel. The first time a young person uses they’ll have positive feelings and then they come back down to normal. So they use that drug again and then again because it feels good. Then something happens that wouldn’t have happened if they weren’t under the influence of that substance. Maybe a child misses school because they’re going to a friend’s house to smoke or drink, or they’re out late and the police bring them home, or they drink too much in the park, throw up and need an ambulance, or they can’t be bothered to go to football or netball. Read more