6 December 2021
By Sam McPhee Source: Daily Main Australia
Hundreds of teens on Schoolies have been spotted puffing on vapes despite a national ban on the highly addictive and dangerous devices.
Vaping has exploded in popularity in recent years – particularly among young Australians – as it doesn’t carry the same stigma and price tag as cigarettes.
Chinese-made vapes can be bought for as little as $20 at most convenience stores and tobacconists compared to a packet of cigarettes for $50.
Worrying images from Schoolies parties on the Gold Coast and Byron Bay show teenagers puffing on vapes on the streets and in bars, despite the long-term health effects of the devices being largely unknown.
Experts say vaping can be particularly damaging for young people because it damages DNA, promotes tumours and can cause a number of respiratory issues.
A study conducted by the Australian Drug and Alcohol Foundation found 20 per cent of non-smokers had tried vapes and two thirds who smoked cigarettes were also using the disposable devices.
The alarming stats come despite a study showing vapes can contain paint, disinfectant, crude oil and even a drug used to kill fish.
The findings come from an investigation into the contents of 50 over-the-counter vapes done by Curtin University.
More than half of the vapes tested contained chemicals toxic to humans if repeatedly inhaled and some were linked to lung cancer.
The study found the liquids used in 50 vapes bought without prescription included eugenol – which is used to euthanise fish – petroleum, household disinfectant, cosmetics and paint.
Many have completely ‘unknown effects on respiratory health’.
The sale of nicotine-based e-cigarettes was banned in every Australian state from October 1, with people only able to purchase the vapes if they have a doctor’s prescription.
But vape vendors are sidestepping the ban by selling the disposable devices on the black market.
Max Fichkin, who runs The Steamery in Sydney, said the laws hasn’t stopped commercial suppliers from smuggling massive shipments into Australia.
‘There has always been a black market, and the more the government tries to quash it with legislation, the more the black market will thrive,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘Tobacconists, milk bars and corner stores are selling them under the counter – and there has been very little reinforcement.
‘If you jump on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace and search key words there are black market sellers who will deliver nicotine vaping products to your house.’
After penalties were boosted earlier this month, those caught selling e-cigarettes with nicotine can now be fined up to $1650 or jailed for six months – or both.
Despite the risks, Mr Fichkin does not think black market sellers will be deterred.
‘The fine increase is minor. The profits far exceed the costs. I don’t see corner stores earning less than $1600 a day selling disposable vapes,’ he said.
‘It is a lucrative area to be in.’