Social media key to stamping out vape and smoking rates

Social media giants such as TikTok will be key to getting the message through to younger Australians about the harmful impacts of vaping, experts say.

Health Minister Mark Butler launched a $63 million "give up for good" national campaign on Monday, targeting vaping for the first time and the use of cigarettes in almost a decade.

The campaign, which for the first time uses TikTok, focuses on four groups: young people who vape, adults who vape, adults who smoke and Indigenous adults who smoke.

Tobacco use remains Australia’s leading cause of preventable death and disability, with about 50 people dying every day from related causes.

Health Minister Mark Butler
Health Minister Mark Butler says it is never too late to quit.

Support services helping people quit will also be expanded.

The ads will run across TV, social media, radio and cinema among other places until December.

Australian Medical Association president Steve Robson said without action the nation was setting up a generation of Australians for a health "catastrophe".

"Having a campaign that's aimed around social media - things like TikTok, that's where young Australians are looking for information - it's a really great idea and we support this," he said.

Professor Robson said many young people were addicted to nicotine but it was never too late to start providing information.

"I don't think many people realise just what a catastrophe vaping will become among young people around the world, especially in Australia," he said.

More than three million people vaped or smoked in 2022.

The prevalence of vaping, particularly in young people, has skyrocketed, causing alarm among public health officials.

For teenagers between 14 and 17 years, 9.7 per cent said they vaped daily, a five-fold increase from 2019.

About half of people aged 18-24 reported having used e-cigarettes at least once, almost double the 26 per cent in 2019.

Mr Butler said the government's legislation to ban the sale and supply of non-therapeutic vapes would be debated in the Senate when parliament returns later this month.

On a suggestion by the Nationals that vapes could be legalised and taxed, Mr Butler said the government was not willing to "raise the white flag on the health of young Australians".

"The only groups who support regulating and essentially accepting this as a legitimate market in Australia are firstly the National Party and then business groups that are making a profit out of this public health menace," he said.

a burning cigarette and packet
About 50 Australians die every day from tobacco-related causes.

Influencer content, which was the first phase of the anti-vaping youth campaign, has racked up almost eight million views.

Quit director Rachael Andersen said the organisation was there to help people give up vaping or smoking.

"We want to remind people they’re not alone in giving up for good," she said.

"So whether it’s your first attempt to quit, or your 10th, we’re here to support you.”

Australia Council of State Schools Organisations president Damien Ellwood backed the resources being made available for families and schools to tackle the problem.

"Through education, regulation and accessible cessation services the government is making significant strides in addressing the vaping crisis among young Australians," he said.

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