Last week I was pleased to co-sign a letter on behalf of the National Catholic Education Commission, several national educational organisations and the Australian Medical Association to support the Australian Government’s Therapeutic Goods and Other Legislation Amendment (Vaping Reforms) Bill 2024.

The Bill seeks to implement the second stage of the government’s vaping reform measures, and to address the harms of vaping which includes serious health issues such as lung damage, developmental delay of the brain and exposure to toxic chemicals. This is particularly alarming when young people across the country are taking up vaping in ever growing numbers.

This is a significant issue affecting school communities to monitor and prevent vaping in schools, and also for families who are challenged by the impacts of this health issue at home.

Last month, the Minister for Health and Aging Mark Butler MP and Minister for Education Jason Clare MP visited Marist Sisters College, Woolwich regarding a research trial of a program aiming to reduce the number of students vaping and smoking.

The ministers said the popularity of the ‘OurFutures’ Vaping program, which was taken up by 250 high schools across Australia, is indicative of the huge concerns of teachers and school communities about the rising popularity and dangers of vaping.

In December 2023, the Australian Secondary Students Alcohol and Drug Survey (ASSAD) revealed alarming new data showing that the rapid uptake of vaping amongst 12-17 year olds had quadrupled over the past five years. Of great concern is the increasing susceptibility that this will then lead to students taking up the smoking of cigarettes. The study found almost a third of teens have tried vaping, with three times of those who vape likely to take up smoking later on.

As Catholic education leaders and staff we are uniquely placed to support families in addressing this serious health issue, particularly in providing education, increasing monitoring at school, and adopting programs to address the issue of vaping. I invite you to become aware of the government’s legislation and other reform measures which are widely supported by all state and territory education ministers, and to identify ways in which you can tackle this issue in your communities.

Jacinta Collins
National Catholic education executive director

Image: Ministers Jason Clare and Mark Butler with staff of Marist Sisters College