One teen has described how her addiction to vaping led her to hide seven devices in her bedroom and inhale about 3,000 puffs a week.
At just 14, Sydney’s Ruby Ellis became addicted to vapes after seeing other kids using them at her school – where she says they were so common that ‘entrepreneurial’ students started importing them in bulk to give to their friends. to sell.
The now 18-year-old is in the process of beating her addiction and has spoken out to highlight what has become an epidemic in recent years as millions of devices – mostly manufactured in China outside of Australian legal safeguards – flood the country.
“I would (vape) all the time, sometimes in front of my parents if they had their backs turned, because it’s so easy to hide,” Ms Ellis told The Project.
Ruby Ellis (pictured) said she became addicted to vapes at age 14 and they were common in her school
“It becomes a problem if it’s the first thing on your mind when you wake up – ‘where’s my vape?” and ‘one last hit of the vape” – before going to bed.”
Her mother Nikola said she was always on the lookout for warning signs, as any parent would with a teenager, but she was surprised by the magnitude of her daughter’s problem.
‘We were looking for cigarette smells, behavioral changes when drugs are involved or alcohol is nearby. But with vapes there is literally no sign at all,” Nikola said.
But Ms. Ellis disagrees, pointing out that there were subtle red flags that her addiction was spiraling out of control.
“There were times when you noticed something,” the teenager said.
“When I had my first hit in the morning, it’s such a huge amount of nicotine that you ingest. And there were many times you asked ‘why are you shaking?” and that was literally because I just took a big hit from the vape.’
Ms Ellis added that she sometimes “fainted” and became extremely light-headed after taking a drag on the electronic cigarette.
Ruby Ellis (left) and her mom Nikola (right) speak out to spotlight the vape epidemic
Ruby described hiding multiple vapes in her drawers and around her bedroom and even on one occasion fished one out of the bin and continued to use it.
‘There was a dead rabbit’ just next to to the vape and I’m not even like ”eww!”, there was no hesitation, I’m there like ”this is great,” she said.
Nikola said it was “heartbreaking” to see children like her daughter addicted to something and “not in control of their lives.”
The vaping craze has quickly spread across the country, especially among teenagers.
This is due to the bright colours, the wide range of flavors such as pineapple, ice cream and chocolate, and the fact that they can be designed to look like everyday objects such as pens or USB sticks.
Ms. Ellis suspected that “90 percent” of her classmates use vapes, and admitted she never had any trouble finding one.
Vapes work by using electricity to heat the e-liquid, which is made from chemicals and often contains nicotine, to release a vapor that is inhaled into the lungs in a similar way to tobacco cigarettes.
Vapes or e-cigarettes are often sold in clear packs with flavors like mango and blueberry, but most still contain nicotine (pictured: some products from HQD)
Vapes and e-liquids containing nicotine are available on prescription only for Australian adults, while non-nicotine versions can be purchased without a prescription.
But selling vaping products, nicotine or not, is illegal to minors.
Still, this hasn’t stopped the booming black market, with the products widely available under the counter at convenience stores and tobacconists, as well as imported from abroad over the internet.
The majority are manufactured in factories in the Chinese city of Shenzhen, known as the country’s ‘vape capital’, producing millions of products a day.
Border Force intercepted 248 shipments of nicotine vaping products at the Australian border between October 2021 and May 2022.
This one contained 144,724 nicotine vaporizers, just a fraction of the huge number coming into the country.
In NSW alone, 30 percent of teens have tried vaping, with the vast majority saying they were easy to come by (stock image)
According to the Cancer Council NSW, more than 30 percent of young people in NSW have tried e-cigarettes alone, and 80 percent of those who vape found it easy to obtain the products.
Proponents argue that the devices reduce harm because they take smokers off regular cigarettes.
But critics say they are creating a whole new generation of vapers, the damage of which has yet to be confirmed.
According to the World Health Organization, “There is not enough data to understand the full breadth of their health impacts as devices have not been on the market long enough.”
“Nevertheless, the evidence is clear that the aerosols of most electronic nicotine delivery systems contain toxic chemicals that can cause cancer and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, lung disease and adverse effects on fetal development during pregnancy.”
One in three vapes sold in Australia contain illegal amounts of banned chemicals and can cause dangerous illnesses including ‘popcorn lung’
Banned levels of ingredients linked to harmful lung diseases, such as ‘popcorn lung’, have been found in nearly a third of vapes sold in Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration found that 31 percent of the 214 e-cigarettes it analyzed had chemical concentrations that exceeded the legal limit.
Those substances include the additives vitamin E acetate and diacetyl, which have been widely associated with a rare condition called bronchiolitis obliterans, which damages the small airways in the lungs.
The disease is nicknamed “popcorn lung” because diacetyl used to be added to microwave popcorn as a dye.
Pictured is an X-ray showing the effects of ‘popcorn lung’ – which has been widely associated with vaping
The TGA also found that all 190 nicotine vape products it tested violated new labeling rules designed to warn customers of the potential dangers.
A spokesman for the government agency said the banned ingredients are known to cause lung damage in the form of bronchiolitis obliterans and EVALI.
EVALI – which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product-use-associated lung injury – is believed to be caused by vaping containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive compound also found in marijuana, and vitamin E acetate.
Federal law introduced last October imposed minimum safety standards for nicotine vapors imported from abroad and made warning labels mandatory.
The law also made it illegal to buy nicotine vapes without a prescription.
According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the new laws should reduce the risk of nicotine vaping in young adults, while also giving current smokers access to the smoking cessation products.
There are still two ways that prescription holders can obtain nicotine vaping products in Australia; from a pharmacy or import from foreign websites.
Prescriptions can only be written by one of the 80 authorized prescribers, or by a physician approved under the TGA’s Special Access Schedule B.
An authorized prescriber of nicotine vaporization products must be a primary care physician registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Despite the disapproval of vaping advocates, the new laws are supported by the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH).
“ACOSH strongly supports any measure that will effectively halt the flow of illegal disposable e-cigarettes to Australia, which are being used by an increasing number of children and teenagers,” said Chief Executive Maurice Swanson.
“There is growing concern about the use of e-cigarettes among children and teenagers.”