Over 500,000 vapers in Australia now, according to Government study
Posted on July 22, 2020
VAPING is now a mainstream quitting strategy for Australian smokers, with the number of vapers more than doubling in the last 3 years. In 2019, 2.5% of the population (aged 14+) or *520,000 people were ‘current’ vapers (vaped at least once in the last year).
This finding was released last week in the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey and shows that "the vaping genie is well and truly out of the bottle".
In the previous survey in 2016, 1.2% of the population vaped and there were only 240,000 vapers.
This is an extraordinary rise given that vaping is discouraged by federal and state health departments and most health and medical organisations and is essentially illegal in Australia
Vaping rates are still lower than most other western countries but are quickly catching up.
The survey found that 54% of vapers are still smoking - "dual use" (280,000). Many vapers smoke in the early stages as they adjust to vaping and stop smoking when they are ready. Dual use causes less harm than smoking, but the greatest benefits are from quitting smoking completely.
3.2% of ex-smokers (200,000) vape, in many cases to avoid relapsing to smoking. Vaping is not risk-free but it much safer than smoking.
0.7% of people who have never smoked also vape (43,000). 70% of these never-smokers vape infrequently (monthly or less) and this is of little public health importance. Only 30% vape daily.
Most never-smokers who try vaping (85.4%) do it out of curiosity and 93% of these do not continue long-term.
Vaping is not for non-smokers, but some of these never-smoking vapers would have smoked instead if vaping was not available.
Ex-smoker - ex-vaper
Many people quit smoking by vaping and then quit vaping as well, but are not captured in the Survey.
Age of vapers
Vaping is rare in 14-17 year olds and most common in the 18-29 year age group. It gradually decreases with age.
1.8% of 14-17 year olds had vaped at least once in the last year and most of these were smokers (17.5% of smokers also vaped). This may be a good thing. If young smokers are smoking fewer cigarettes and vaping more it is likely to be beneficial to their health.
Vaping is rare in Australian youth who have never smoked. Only 1.3% of non-smokers are currently vaping (ie have vaped at least once in the last year)
The frequency of vaping was not reported, but based on overseas experience, most use by never-smokers is likely to be infrequent. Even in the US where fears of a youth epidemic began, 70% of never-smoking youth who vaped did so on only 1-5 days in the last month.
Vaping is diverting young people from smoking and some of the never-smoking vapers would have otherwise been smoking if vaping was not available.
Reasons for vaping
Many people try vaping out of curiosity. However, amongst smokers, 44% vaped to quit, 32% to cut down, 23% to avoid relapse and 27% to reduce harm from smoking.
The most common reason for vaping in teens is curiosity (73%). Teens should not smoke or vape, but it is better if they rebel by vaping than smoking.
* Australian population (14+y) in June 2019 was 20,910,111 [ABS]
National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare 2020
Australian Bureau of Statistics. Estimated resident population by single year of age, Australia. June 2019
Posted by Colin Mendelsohn, firstname.lastname@example.org