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  • Writer's pictureKirra Pendergast

Vapes and Social Media - What parents can do.

Updated: Mar 30, 2023

"Vapes" are readily available and very accessible to teenagers (and in some cases tweens), as many are purchasing them through social media platforms. While vaping products were initially marketed as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes, growing evidence suggests they are very harmful.

Vaping has become increasingly popular among Australian teenagers, with some studies indicating that over one in ten high school students have tried vaping. Schools often ask the Safe on Social team to speak about the danger of ordering vapes online.

A recent study by the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre at the University of New South Wales has revealed that social media platforms are facilitating the easy purchase of vaping products by Australian teenagers. The study found that traditional retailers are no longer the main source of vaping products for teens. Instead, 28% of high school students have resorted to buying these products through platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitter. Disturbingly, 80% of these buyers were not asked to verify their age. This poses a great concern since vaping products contain nicotine, which is harmful and highly addictive for young people. Vaping product sellers advertise their wares on social media by using hashtags such as #vapeforsale or #vapesforsale. Buyers then get in touch with sellers to arrange the sale. Sometimes buyers will agree to meet sellers in person to exchange cash for the product, which is a hazardous situation. Additionally, online marketplaces such as Facebook Marketplace or Gumtree, which prohibit the sale of tobacco and vaping products, are being used by sellers to circumvent these rules by using coded language or offering related products such as empty vape cartridges or flavored e-liquids.

Vaping can lead to lung damage, respiratory problems, and other health issues. The unregulated nature of the vaping market on social media platforms raises additional concerns.

There is no oversight of the quality or safety of the products being sold.

There is no way to ensure that the products are not made up of highly toxic liquid, or the vape itself has been tampered with.

Teenagers who purchase vaping products through social media are also at risk of being scammed or ripped off by sellers.

They may meet up with strangers to collect the goods they purchased online.

They can post pictures, videos, and descriptions of their products and provide information about how to purchase them that bypasses any restrictions.

The Australian government took some steps to address the issue of teenagers purchasing vapes through social media. In 2019, the government passed legislation that makes it illegal to sell vaping products to minors, and in 2020, the government introduced new regulations that require all vaping products to be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Despite these regulations, the sale of vapes through social media platforms continues to be a problem. To combat this issue, more needs to be done to educate young people about the dangers of vaping and the risks associated with purchasing products through social media platforms. Parents, educators, and health professionals need to work together to raise awareness about the dangers of vaping and the importance of protecting young people from the harmful effects of nicotine addiction.

What parents and carers can do to help combat the issue of teens buying vapes through social media:

Talk openly and honestly with children about the dangers of vaping and the potential consequences of getting involved in illegal activities like buying vapes through social media. Open communication is key. Encourage your child to talk and offer support without judgment. It is never too young to start this conversation.

Educate yourself on the risks associated with vaping and the strategies that schools are using to combat the issue. This will help you to better support your children and work collaboratively with schools to address the problem.

Establish clear rules and consequences around vaping. Make sure your child understands the consequences of vaping, including the potential health risks and legal consequences.

If you are made aware of a young person buying vapes online or through social media, report this to the app, and the police. This can help to prevent further illegal activity.

Keep an eye on your child's behavior, grades, and social activities. If you notice any changes, talk to your child and address any concerns you may have.

Establish clear rules and consequences around vaping. Make sure your child understands the consequences of vaping, including the potential health risks and legal consequences.

Be a role model by not using any tobacco or vaping products in front of your child.

If your child is addicted to vaping, seek professional help. Talk to your child's doctor or a mental health professional for support. It is important to be proactive about your child's health and well-being.

Attend school meetings and stay informed about policies and programs aimed at preventing vaping in schools. Advocate for stronger regulations around the sale and distribution of vapes, including stricter enforcement of age restrictions and tougher penalties for those who sell vapes to minors online and off.

To report information about the suspected illegal sale of these products.

In Australia report to Crime Stoppers via If you are outside of Australia consult your local law enforcement.

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