HealthPathway leading the way to tackle youth vaping crisis

Feb 28, 2024

In response to the escalating issue of vaping in youth, Mid and North Coast HealthPathways has recently written and published the Vaping in Youth pathway to assist primary health practitioners navigate the problem with their patients.

In consultation with MNC Health Promotion and the North Coast Youth Vaping Taskforce partnership, Dr Grace Leung from Healthy North Coast/ PHN was tasked with developing the definitive pathway for NSW, with Mid and North Coast HealthPathways being the ‘lead region’ for the state.

About vaping in youth:

  • E-liquids might contain nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals, exposing e-cigarette users to substances which may be toxic or carcinogenic.
  • E-cigarettes might contain nicotine even if it is labelled ‘nicotine free’, and they often contain much higher concentrations of nicotine than in tobacco cigarettes, with a greater potential for dependence.
  • E-cigarette use is increasing in all age groups, but most rapidly in young people. In 2021 to 2022 in NSW, 43% of 16- to 24-year-olds had used an e-cigarette. 17% were current (daily or occasional) users.

Dr Leung explained the significance of the project and why it’s been difficult in the past for health practitioners to handle, and the need for increased awareness and proactive enquiry.

“It is very rare that somebody would actually come into a GP, for example, and say ‘I’ve got a problem with vaping’, or ‘My kid has a problem with vaping’,” Dr Leung said.

“If there is a presentation, it would be more likely for behavioural-type problems, sleep problems, anxiety or depression. It’s not until you dig a bit deeper that you realise that vaping is often the root of the problem.

“We’re good at asking [young people] about smoking and drugs, but if you don’t know about vaping you would never ask about it.

“Even a lot of my own patients were vaping and I had no clue, because I wasn’t asking the question. To them, it’s not seen as dangerous.”

The HealthPathway includes information about the unknown composition of many vaping products, which may lead to potential health risks. Dr. Leung urged healthcare providers to educate themselves about the dangers associated with vaping and to be vigilant in addressing the issue with young patients, while also expressing concern about the emerging nature of the trend.

“Young people can’t physically see any effects because it’s so new. Nobody knows the negative long-term effects that vaping might have,” Dr Leung said.

“Since it’s so prevalent and everyone’s doing it, and because there’s no smoke, they don’t see it as a problem.”

The pathway was written in collaboration with the NSW Ministry of Health and with drug and alcohol specialists from the Sydney Children’s Hospital Network (SCHN).

Being a ‘lead region’ pathway eliminates the need for each PHN to independently develop a solution. Instead, regions can adopt the comprehensive pathway as is, streamlining efforts and facilitating a more coordinated response to the youth vaping crisis.

The Mid and North Coast HealthPathway for youth vaping is not just a local solution but a model for health practitioners across the entire state.

HealthPathways information:
Vaping in Youth
Username:  manchealth
Password:  conn3ct3d


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