Vaping a rising concern for local health service

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A Sunbury and Macedon Ranges health service has raised concerns about the mental health impacts of nicotine vaping in the young people presenting to them.

Sunbury and Cobaw Community Health (SCCH) mental health manager Adam Stefano said vaping was becoming a more present issue within counselling.

“Nicotine use [or] addiction can contribute towards heightened anxiety, either as a result of addiction or the immediate effects of nicotine,” Mr Stefano said.

“The physiological effects are incredibly similar to those that are elicited when experiencing anxiety. There have been cases of young people (in particular) presenting for counselling and being unaware that their vaping habit is contributing – and at times causing – their anxiety symptoms.

“Individuals have transitioned from smoking to vaping in an attempt to reduce nicotine consumption, but inadvertently had to return to tobacco due to vaping promoting the frequency and quantity of nicotine consumption.”

He said while the service had seen a “significant increase” in vaping among young people, it was yet to translate into an increase in vape specific service requests from young people or their parents.

“This may be due to young people not understanding or recognising the risks associated with vaping, therefore are not identifying their use to be problematic,” Mr Stefano said.

SCCH, a member of the Macedon Ranges School Wellbeing Network, said schools reported at every meeting that vaping was a growing anxiety.

Last week, the Australian Medical Association (AMA) said Australia was “losing the public health battle” against vaping.

The AMA called to limit access to nicotine vaping products (NVPs), by banning personal importations and reducing the allowed concentration of nicotine in products, in a submission to the Therapeutic Goods Administration on potential reforms to the regulation of NVPs.

AMA President Professor Stephen Robson said vaping was not harmless or part of tobacco control and wants better regulation to stop the proliferation of non-NVPs including using similar regulation to tobacco products such as improved labelling, plain packaging and tobacco licences.

“Vaping products are a gateway to smoking for young people and there are significant risks from vaping that warrant much stronger regulation,” he said.

“For example, we know many products marketed as not containing nicotine have been found to contain nicotine and products have also been found to contain prohibited chemicals that can cause serious harm, like vitamin E acetate and diacetyl, which can cause serious damage to the lungs.”