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HealthPathways North Coast tackles youth vaping with state-first pathway

Published on 08 Jul, 2024 | Return|



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

This new pathway came off the back of efforts by the North Coast Youth Vaping Taskforce. HealthPathways clinical editor Dr Grace Leung was tasked with developing the pathway for the New South Wales HealthPathways programme, with Mid and North Coast HealthPathways being the lead region for the state. Eleven HealthPathways teams already follow the pathway, which has recorded 505 page views on the Mid and North Coast HealthPathways site. 

E-cigarette use is increasing in all age groups across Australia, but most rapidly in young people. From 2021 to 2022 in NSW, 43% of 16 to 24-year-olds had used an e-cigarette, while 17% were current (daily or occasional) users. 

Liquids used in vaping may contain nicotine, flavourings, and other chemicals, exposing e-cigarette users to substances which may be toxic or carcinogenic. E-cigarettes may contain nicotine even if labelled ‘nicotine free’, and they often contain much higher concentrations of nicotine than tobacco cigarettes, and so have a greater potential for dependence. 

Dr Leung says there is a 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”.” 
“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 are not accustomed to specifically asking about vaping, you might not mention 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 Vaping in Youth pathway includes information about the unknown composition of many vaping products, which may lead to potential health risks. Dr Leung urges healthcare providers to educate themselves about the dangers associated with vaping and to be vigilant in addressing the issue with young patients. She also expresses 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.” 

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

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

The shared pathway eliminates the need for each local HealthPathways team to independently develop a solution. Instead, they can adopt the comprehensive pathway as is, streamlining efforts and facilitating a more coordinated response to the youth vaping crisis.  

More information 

If you’re a member of the HealthPathways Community and would like more information about the Vaping in Youth pathway, please contact your community success manager.  

If you’d like to know more about HealthPathways, or if your health jurisdiction hasn’t yet joined the HealthPathways Community, please: 

  • See HealthPathways Global for an overview  
  • Email info@healthpathwaysglobal.org or phone: 
  • Within the United Kingdom: +44 20 3519 1964 
  • Within Australia: +61 7 3559 2744 
  • Within New Zealand: +64 3 595 2830