A University of Queensland researcher is among a coalition of respiratory doctors and scientists warning of the dangers electronic cigarettes pose to children and adolescents.
UQ Research Fellow Dr Henry Marshall said the Forum of International Respiratory Societies report found a variety of factors made e-cigarettes particularly appealing to youths.
“Unrestricted marketing on social media and TV, fruit flavourings, cheaper prices and claims that e-cigarettes are ‘healthier than cigarettes’ all make e-cigarettes very attractive to adolescents,” Dr Marshall said.
“While e-cigarettes may be less harmful than combustible cigarettes, they are not ‘harm-free’.
“The effects of chronic exposure may take decades to become apparent.”
Dr Marshall said there was a danger of e-cigarettes normalising smoking again and undoing the success of public smoking bans.
“Public smoking bans have been very successful in de-normalising smoking, but e-cigarettes are not regulated the same way in many jurisdictions and can be used in public spaces,” he said.
“Australia has taken a precautionary approach to e-cigarettes and I think this is correct until benefits and harms are better understood.”
University of Cape Town researcher Dr Aneesa Vanker said the coalition was calling for an immediate ban on flavourings, and on marketing e-cigarettes as lower risk alternatives to children and adolescents.
“We want local, national, and regional decision-makers to recognise the growing public health threat that e-cigarettes pose to children and adolescents,” she said.
“Inhaling something other than air is never good for a child’s lungs.”
The Forum of International Respiratory Societies is a collaboration of nine organisations from North and South America, Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia that was created to promote lung health worldwide.