Campaign exposes ‘rotten fruit’ of vaping

With laws that ban smoking in WA workplaces likely to be extended to vaping next year, the Cancer Council WA is campaigning to curb rising rates of e-cigarette use among young people.

By Cathy O’Leary

The State Government has raised the possible extension of smoking bans to include vaping products on the back of a survey by CCWA that found 81% of WA adults thought vaping should not be allowed in places where smoking was banned.

Last month, the council launched a new digital campaign, Clear the Air, in a bid to prevent people taking up vaping, following new data that shows the number of 14-to-24-year-olds who currently vape has skyrocketed since 2020. 

CEO Ashley Reid said the increase in vaping rates in Australia could undo decades of work protecting young people from the harms of smoking. 

“Earlier this year, Cancer Council WA received $375,000 from Healthway to develop the first WA-made vaping prevention campaign to raise awareness about vaping harms, prevent uptake among those susceptible to vaping, and encourage cessation among people already vaping regularly,” Mr Reid said. 

“At first, it’s the bright colours and sweet flavours that lure young people to vapes, but it’s the highly addictive nicotine content that can keep them hooked.” 

National data shows that in 2020, 2% of 14-to-17-year-olds were vaping. By 2022, that number skyrocketed to almost 12%, which is more than a five-fold increase. In 2020, almost 6% of those aged 18-24 years vaped. In 2022, that number had nearly quadrupled to more than 21%. 

“This increase is particularly concerning given that people who have never smoked and start vaping are three times more likely to take up smoking in the future. Already, for the first time in decades, we are seeing an uptake in the rates of young people using tobacco,” Mr Reid said. 

He said the new advertisements showed the “rotten truth” about vapes, such as harmful chemicals, addictiveness, and nicotine poisoning, all of which are hidden behind the deceptively innocent flavours found in vapes. 

Each Rotten Fruit advertisement begins by mimicking a colourful and fruity vape flavour ads.

“This quickly changes to a vape splitting apart to reveal confronting imagery related to the harmful truths about vapes, including a dead cockroach, a cadaver, a puddle of vomit, and a pile of cigarette butts,” Mr Reid said.

“Many of the young people we spoke to about vaping were shocked to hear there are more than 240 chemicals in vapes, that a single vape can contain as much nicotine as three packs of cigarettes, and that too much nicotine can lead to serious health problems like nausea, vomiting and even seizures.” 

“Symptoms like vomiting, breathlessness, headaches and lung irritation can make it harder to work or study and can stop you from doing the activities you love the most. The toxic chemicals in vapes even have the potential to cause serious medical emergencies.”

The Clear the Air campaign will run until June next year across social media, streaming services and mobile apps.