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Barwon Health / Barwon South West Public Health Unit

(03) 4215 4000

Helping the Barwon community to understand vaping – and where to seek help

Tuesday, 27 June 2023

Vaping is on the rise, especially in young people who have never smoked. Schools and families have made it clear they cannot address it on their own. vaping pic

The Barwon Health Healthy Communities Unit facilitated a presentation that included a Public Health physician, health promotion specialist and a smoking cessation nurse. This presentation aimed to increase community knowledge about vaping and capacity to seek help. 

The Healthy Communities Unit developed a presentation inviting schools, key partner agencies and the health and tertiary education sectors and the general community to attend and participate virtually. This presentation had three components:

  • A public health physician presented on current vaping ingredients including material found in nail polish remover, anti-freeze, fireworks and pesticides. He spoke on the increasing rates of vaping, the health harms and concluded that the real burden is bigger than current data indicates.
  • A health promotion specialist presented the results from a community consultation, to help our community understand what drives vaping behaviour.
  • The community consultation component utilised a Group Model Build process recognising the complexity of this area. Group Model Build provides an opportunity to engage diverse stakeholders to collectively consider the causes and potential solutions to complex problems. We asked participants to define the factors influencing vaping in young people, and then exploring the connection between factors. These connections were mapped and themed to identify where we could act to reduce vaping among young people.
  • A Barwon Health smoking cessation nurse provided information about Barwon Health’s ‘Be Smoke Free’ program, a free one-on-one individualized service to help and counsel people trying to recover from nicotine dependency. She also presented on how families, schools and the health sector can support young people who vape.

The presentation had a total of 180 attendees on the day and the recording continues to be shared throughout schools and other networks widely.

A survey provided after the presentation received responses from parents, healthcare workers, education staff and the general community. Themes included; lack of awareness of the ingredients in vapes, the age of young people vaping, life stage can influence uptake of vaping, and how vaping can lead to other substance issues.  

Attendees indicated they would act to share this information, offer support and advice, refer to services and partner to create resources. A question asking what attendees intend to do after watching the presentation prompted the following sample responses:

  • “Speak to my friends and family who are addicted and understand their reasoning behind why they're actually vaping. Look into the marketing of vapes and how they're attracted to children and bring awareness.” – community member 
  • “Share presentation recording with colleagues who are also concerned parents” – parent/carer 
  • “Try to change how we respond when we find them (students) vaping” – education staff
  •  “The health system needs to prepare for the impacts on service demands of policy reducing availability of vapes…the core business of school is being derailed by trying to manage this issue.” – healthcare worker
  • “Include vaping when referencing tobacco control in (our) municipal public health and well-being plan” – other organisation

This work is part of multiple reinforcing strategies to combat vaping in our region. We have learnt that we can significantly increase our reach with these messages by recording and sharing the content through a range of different community settings. 

This presentation will now lead to co-designing solutions with young people, families and schools to reduce vaping in our community.