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WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
WARNING: This product contains nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive chemical.
Underage Usage and E-cigarettes: Regulations and Reality

Underage Usage and E-cigarettes: Regulations and Reality

E-cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes or vapes, have become increasingly popular in Australia over the past decade, especially among teenagers and young adults. However, there are growing concerns about underage usage of these devices and their impacts on health. This article examines the regulations around e-cigarette usage in Australia, especially for those under 18, and the reality of underage vaping trends.

Why Caring About Underage Vaping Matters

E-cigarette usage among teens and adolescents has been rising rapidly in recent years. This emerging public health issue demands our attention and action. Here are some key reasons why we should care:

  • It can lead to lifelong nicotine addiction during critical developmental stages. The adolescent brain is especially vulnerable.
  • Vaping risks exposure to toxic chemicals and unknown long-term health effects on the lungs and cardiovascular systems.
  • E-cigarette use is linked to an increased likelihood of smoking cigarettes and future drug use. It negates progress made to denormalize tobacco usage.
  • Severe injuries, though rare, can occur due to device explosions and battery issues.
  • Youth are deliberately targeted with kid-friendly flavors and influential marketing tactics by vape companies seeking new customers. This normalization threatens to undo years of anti-smoking efforts.

Caring enough to tackle this issue is crucial to preventing nicotine addiction in vulnerable youth populations. With education, regulation, role modeling, and more, we can help ensure e-cigarettes do not compromise the health of future generations.


The Reality of Underage Vaping in Australia

Despite the regulations, vaping has become prevalent among Australian youth. A 2019 study found that 15% of 16-29 year-olds currently use e-cigarettes, with usage highest among those aged 18-24. Here are some key statistics on underage vaping:

  • Around 13% of Australian 14-17 year-olds have tried vaping, according to a 2018 Cancer Council Victoria survey.
  • The same survey found that 2% of 14-15 year olds and 5% of 16-17 year olds vape regularly.
  • Underage vapers commonly obtain devices and nicotine products through social sources like friends or older siblings. Just 15% buy them personally from retailers.
  • The most popular reasons teenagers vape are out of curiosity, for the flavors, and to quit smoking cigarettes.
  • Most teen vapers say they have used nicotine e-liquids in their devices.

Health Risks of Underage Vaping

Health authorities worldwide agree that e-cigarette usage poses risks, especially for developing adolescent brains and bodies. Potential health impacts include:

  • Nicotine addiction - The highly addictive substance can hamper brain development and lead to lifelong dependence. 
  • Exposure to toxic chemicals - E-liquids contain chemicals like formaldehyde and metals that can damage the lungs.
  • Unknown long-term effects - The long-term impacts of vaping on health are not yet fully understood.
  • Gateway to cigarette smoking - Teens who vape are 3-4 times more likely to start smoking.
  • Harms of nicotine poisoning - High nicotine concentrations can cause vomiting, seizures, and even death in rare cases.
  • Injuries from device explosions - Faulty batteries in e-cig devices rarely explode and cause burns or other trauma.

Tackling Underage Vaping in Australia

More action is needed to curb the rising tide of underage e-cigarette use. Some strategies that could help include:

  • Running public education campaigns about vaping risks targeted at youth.
  • Tighter enforcement of age verification for online and retail sales.
  • Restricting flavors that appeal to teenagers, like candy or fruit flavors.
  • School programs to counteract vaping promotion among students.
  • More vape-free zones where youth congregate.
  • Support for addicted teens to quit through counseling and nicotine replacement.
  • Increasing the legal purchase age from 18 to 21, as some parts of Australia have done.

With creative and comprehensive strategies, Australia can progress in reducing youth vaping rates and protecting teens from a lifetime of nicotine addiction. The key will be coordinated efforts across all levels of society - from lawmakers establishing wise regulations to parents having open conversations. It will require persistence and care from all committed to nurturing the next generation.



Despite age restrictions and bans on nicotine vapes, e-cigarette usage remains a significant issue among Australian teens. Stronger regulation and education are required to prevent youth nicotine addiction and protect young vapers from potential health harms. Ongoing monitoring of youth vaping trends is also essential to inform policy. With coordinated efforts, Australia can curb underage e-cigarette usage and set teens up for a healthier future.

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