A Sydney nicotine expert has spoken out against electronic cigarettes after a recent study confirmed they are a gateway to tobacco smoking in adolescents.
The president of the Australian Association of Smoking Cessation Professionals, Renee Pittoun told The Newsroom she is concerned by these results, especially since NSW and Queensland are the only Australian states to prohibit sales of e-cigarettes to minors. The ACT Government plans to bring in prohibition laws next year.
“I think it’s the cigarette of the 21st century,” Ms Pittoun said.
“It’s a consumer issue… These kids will become life-long consumers. I’m very much opposed to it.”
E-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that heat liquid into an aerosol or “vapour”, which is inhaled by the user and called “vaping”. They come in many flavours, shapes and sizes, and may or may not, contain nicotine.
Sydney-based adolescent psychologist and counsellor Nick Garay echoed Ms Pittoun’s concerns; he said teenagers are now at a greater risk of picking up tobacco smoking through prior e-cigarette use due to the vulnerability they experience during the “experimental stage” of adolescence.
“The highest point of risk-taking is around those ages,” Mr Garay told The Newsroom. “It’s exposing them to future addictive behaviours that they aren’t aware of. I don’t see it as a deterrence for teenagers.
“I think they’re (e-cigarette manufacturers) are trying to encourage them into eventually smoking full-time… I’ve got a few teenage clients who in their experience have tried it and basically then just gone straight onto nicotine cigarettes.”
Mr Garay believes e-cigarettes – which come in 7000 flavours, including confectionary, fruit, and chocolate – are strategically marketed at adolescents.
“In my opinion, it’s definitely just a marketing ploy to keep enticing teenagers into tobacco smoking,” he said.
“The marketing works because 70 per cent of what we take in is visual, so the colours and flavours that they use, even though it’s supposed to be a reduction progress, they are trying to stay one step ahead to make sure they engage the next generation in tobacco smoking.”
The owner and founder of Australian e-cigarette company Joystick, Alexander McDonald told The Newsroom tobacco cigarettes were the real problem.
“If e-cigarettes lead to smoking, why not ban smoking?” he said.
“I think it’s the opposite. It’s the aftermath. Tobacco is leading to vaping… smoking is the gateway to smoking.”
Mr McDonald said Joystick did not advertise to minors.
“It’s intended for sales towards adults,” he said.
“We make sure that when you come to paying on the site you need to identify yourself and confirm your age. There’s no real way of controlling teenagers from buying our products, but it’s definitely a deterrence.” – Sophia Rambaldini
Top photo of an e-cigarette user from www.vapour.co.uk.