Alarm as steep rise in youth vaping overtakes smoking

Savannah Meacham |

Vaping has overtaken smoking among young South Australians for the first time with data showing a steep rise in usage.

The number of South Australians aged 15 to 29 vaping daily or weekly nearly doubled from 8.4 per cent in 2022 to 15.1 per cent in 2023, according to the state’s Population Health Survey Module System.

The smoking rate in the same age group was 8.7 per cent.

“This new survey result shows the very real danger vaping poses to our kids in South Australia,” Health Minister Chris Picton said in a statement on Saturday.

South Australians aged 30 to 59 also saw an increase in vape use year on year, albeit a smaller rise than younger people.

The study surveyed 3000 people across the state to aid with tobacco control strategies amid the concerning rise in e-cigarette use.

The SA government is on track to meet its target of reducing daily smoking to 6 per cent by 2027, but health officials are worried about the uptake of vaping particularly by youth.

“The rise of vaping among young people in just one year is extremely concerning and we know this is probably the tip of the iceberg,” Preventive Health interim chief executive Marina Bowshall said.

“We have a long way to go and there is more to do to help turn the tide for our state’s young people.”

SA has invested $16 million for enforcement officers to crack down businesses illegally selling tobacco and vapes from July 1.

Stamping out vaping use in young people is near the top of the national health agenda after recent data showed one in six high school students had recently tried an e-cigarette.

The federal government has introduced a bill to ban the importation, manufacture, supply and commercial possession of single use, disposable vapes.

The latest reform proposal builds on laws passed earlier in 2024 that banned the importation of vapes.

A $63 million advertising blitz has also been rolled out nationally on TV and social media to encourage young Australians to kick the habit.