Not just a young person’s habit: Western Sydney Local Health District workshop tackles e-cigarette problem

Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) has hosted a workshop with district leaders to develop a strategy and implement a coordinated approach to reducing e-cigarette use throughout western Sydney.

The workshop is in response to the growing evidence of the health harms from e-cigarettes, such as lung and cardiovascular (heart) disease, long-lasting damaging effects on the brain and physical development, and unknowing nicotine exposure; with many “nicotine free” e-cigarettes containing high levels of nicotine.

The result of this departmental collaboration will see the development of the E-cigarette Action Plan, led by the Centre for Population Health (CPH) and a WSLHD working group, which will be responsible for driving local implementation and action, under the executive sponsorship of Integrated Community Health general manager Jasmin Ellis.

Also known as ‘e-cigs’ or ‘vapes’, e-cigarettes are battery operated devices that heat a liquid to produce a vapour for inhalation, simulating cigarette smoking.

Since 2018, the district has voiced concerns around the potential health risks of e-cigarettes with substantial efforts already underway to address the uptake of use.

In 2021, the NSW Population Health Survey estimated that 16.2 per cent of adults in NSW had used an e-cigarette at least once and 5.5 per cent were current (daily or occasional) users of e-cigarettes. This was a significant increase from the 2020 estimates of 9.7 per cent of adults in NSW having used an e-cigarette at least once and 2.1 per cent being current users. For young people aged 16 to 24 years, e-cigarette use is significantly higher.

“With new statistics about to be released, we anticipate this percentage will have again increased,” said WSLHD CPH director Dr Shopna Bag.

The goal of our work so far, this workshop, and subsequent actions is to keep people healthy and well.

“We want to prevent the uptake of e-cigarettes by young people and those who have never smoked, encourage and assist people who use e-cigarettes to quit and further educate and support those using e-cigarettes as a clinical therapeutic tool.”

WSLHD Smoking & Vaping Prevention Program coordinator, Sarah Ip, said she hopes people increasingly come to understand the dangers associated with e-cigarette use.

“The biggest misunderstanding about vapes is that they are harmless compared to cigarettes,” said Sarah.

“Vapes are not water, but rather a mix of chemical ingredients, and can contain the same harmful chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray.

“Our main actions for the plan focus on policy and regulation of e-cigarette laws, educating the public and involving our clinical staff to prevent people from using e-cigarettes and support them to quit.”

The E-cigarette Action Plan is currently in the drafting phase and will soon be shared for feedback. Once it has been approved by Jasmin Ellis, the Action Plan Executive Sponsor, and the working group, it is expected to be launched in July.

For more information about e-cigarettes and where to get support to quit, visit the NSW Health website.