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$180m issue with Aussie vape ban

VAPING
The combined cost of treating more patients with respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancer could cost $180mn at least – in addition to the current healthcare costs of 25 smoking-related conditions, estimated at $2.6 billion each year. Picture: NCA Newswire / Gaye Gerard

An alarming amount of vapers will transition to tobacco smoking, new research has found, putting the Australian health system under massive strain.

A study from medical research institute QIMR Berghofer estimated 13 per cent of vapers who have never smoked before will start smoking tobacco – potentially costing Australia more than $180mn extra per year.

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An alarming portion of vapers will transition to tobacco smoking, new research has found, putting the Australian health system under massive strain. Photo by: NCA Newswire /Gaye Gerard

The combined additional cost of treating more patients with respiratory diseases, cardiovascular disease and cancer could cost $180m at least – in addition to the current smoking-related healthcare costs, estimated at $2.6 billion each year.

Poisons, heavy metals like nickel and chromium, and chemical by-products including formaldehyde and acetone are all found in vapes.

Researcher Professor Louisa Gordon said there has been a dramatic spike in the number of people who vape, with about one million Australians already using e-cigarettes.

SMOKING BAN
Vapers who have never smoked tobacco before are more likely to transition to tobacco. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Nicki Connolly

Among others, some of the horrifying health effects of vaping include addiction, poisoning, acute nicotine toxicity – known as getting “nic-sick” – burns and lung injuries.

If those unable to buy a vape under the new ban choose to transition to cigarettes and not to quit smoking altogether, it would increase the risk of long term illness and disease.

“There’s a risk that the nation’s already-strained health system could weaken even further, with an increased number of people experiencing smoking-induced disease and addiction following a transition from vaping to cigarettes,” Professor Gordon said.

Top 10 smoking-related diseases

Annual health system cost of each disease

Extra cost for e-cigarette-initiated smoking

Lower respiratory infections

$1,507,256,031

$53,962,323

Emphysema, Bronchitis (COPD)

$934,899,061

$40,749,309

Lung cancer

$634,006,092

$36,812,228

Ischemic (Coronary) heart disease

$2,338,124,050

$14,981,899

Cerebrovascular disease (Stroke)

$662,293,348

$5,335,893

Other respiratory disease

$1,448,493,263

$4,173,108

Bowel cancer

$1,005,500,747

$4,072,181

Lip and oral cavity cancer

$75,168,911

$2,071,714

Oesophageal cancer

$90,543,321

$1,814,229

Bladder cancer

$137,809,889

$1,030,186

“The government is absolutely on the right path, banning the importation of disposable vapes and making therapeutic vapes only accessible through medical prescription.

“However, further Australian reforms and community-wide education campaigns are urgently needed to support people addicted to e-cigarettes and to prevent the uptake of tobacco cigarettes which are still widely available.”

VAPING PROJECT
Luca Cruzado, 20 pictured vaping at Bondi. Some of the effects of vaping include addiction, poisoning, acute nicotine toxicity – known as getting “nic-sick” – burns and lung injuries. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Swift

In a breakdown of the extra costs potentially racking up Australia’s health bill, Professor Gordon projected lung cancer alone could cost nearly $37mn extra and lower respiratory infections could cost nearly another $54mn every year.

Currently, lower respiratory infections already cost Australia $1.5bn annually.

Emphysema and bronchitis would also cost an extra $40.7mn per year, on top of an already blistering $934mn.

Lung Foundation Australia general manager of policy, advocacy and prevention Paige Preston collaborated in the research and said evidence continued to support government action to prevent and reduce use of vapes.

BORDER FORCE MARK BUTLER
Poisons, heavy metals like nickel and chromium and chemical by-products including formaldehyde and acetone are all found in vapes. Photo by: NCA Newswire /Gaye Gerard

“We need to see the reforms implemented and enforced as a priority for all jurisdictions, as well as enhancing education efforts and leading with empathy as we help people overcome vape and nicotine addiction without stigma,” Ms Preston said.

“However, as a relatively new product, the harmful effects of e-cigarette use are not fully understood, and limited evidence exists for chronic health conditions arising from vaping.

“More research is needed to assess the true burden of e-cigarette use on people’s health and the resulting impact on the Australian healthcare sector and the nation’s economy.”