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Schoolies trend that's worrying parents and doctors

Hundreds of teens on Schoolies have been spotted puffing on vapes despite a national ban on the highly addictive and dangerous devices.

Vaping has exploded in popularity in recent years - particularly among young Australians - as it doesn't carry the same stigma and price tag as cigarettes.

Chinese-made vapes can be bought for as little as $20 at most convenience stores and tobacconists compared to a packet of cigarettes for $50. 

Worrying images from Schoolies parties on the Gold Coast and Byron Bay show teenagers puffing on vapes on the streets and in bars, despite the long-term health effects of the devices being largely unknown. 

Hundreds of teens on Schoolies have been spotted clutching vapes (circled right) despite an apparent national ban on the dangerous disposable devices 

Vaping has exploded in popularity in recent years as it doesn't carry the same stigma and price tag as cigarettes  (woman on far left is seen clutching a grape-flavoured vape)

Chinese-made vapes can be bought for as little as $20 at most convenience stores and tobacconists (school leaver is pictured above proudly showing off her vape) 

Experts say vaping can be particularly damaging for young people because it damages DNA, promotes tumours and can cause a number of respiratory issues.

A study conducted by the Australian Drug and Alcohol Foundation found 20 per cent of non-smokers had tried vapes and two thirds who smoked cigarettes were also using the disposable devices.

The alarming stats come despite a study showing vapes can contain paint, disinfectant, crude oil and even a drug used to kill fish.

The findings come from an investigation into the contents of 50 over-the-counter vapes done by Curtin University.

More than half of the vapes tested contained chemicals toxic to humans if repeatedly inhaled and some were linked to lung cancer.   

The study found the liquids used in 50 vapes bought without prescription included eugenol - which is used to euthanise fish - petroleum, household disinfectant, cosmetics and paint.

Many have completely 'unknown effects on respiratory health'. 

The sale of nicotine-based e-cigarettes was banned in every Australian state from October 1, with people only able to purchase the vapes if they have a doctor's prescription.

But vape vendors are sidestepping the ban by selling the disposable devices on the black market. 

Images from the end of school parties on the Gold Coast and Byron Bay (above) show dozens of teenagers puffing on vapes on the streets and in bars

Both boys and girls were pictured with vapes, which can easily be bought at most convenience stores or petrol stations

Max Fichkin, who runs The Steamery in Sydney, said the laws hasn't stopped commercial suppliers from smuggling massive shipments into Australia.

'There has always been a black market, and the more the government tries to quash it with legislation, the more the black market will thrive,' he told Daily Mail Australia.

'Tobacconists, milk bars and corner stores are selling them under the counter - and there has been very little reinforcement.

'If you jump on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace and search key words there are black market sellers who will deliver nicotine vaping products to your house.'  

After penalties were boosted earlier this month, those caught selling e-cigarettes with nicotine can now be fined up to $1650 or jailed for six months - or both.

Despite the risks, Mr Fichkin does not think black market sellers will be deterred.

'The fine increase is minor. The profits far exceed the costs. I don't see corner stores earning less than $1600 a day selling disposable vapes,' he said.

'It is a lucrative area to be in.'      


By Charlie Coe for Daily Mail Australia 

A mother has issued a heartbreaking warning about the dangers of vaping after her 15-year-old daughter's secret habit left her with a rare life-threatening lung illness.

Sydney teenager Dakota Stephenson went to hospital with a high temperature and back pain last September, seven months after she first started vaping with friends at school.

Dakota was diagnosed with hypoxia within hours - meaning her lungs weren't getting enough air - and spent three days on partial ventilation struggling to breathe.

Sydney schoolgirl Dakota Stephenson, 15, spent three days on partial ventilation struggling to breathe after taking up vaping

Her doctors at Randwick Children's Hospital believe she was suffering from a lung condition called EVALI that was first reported in the US in 2019.

EVALI - which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury - is thought to be caused by vapes containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), a psychoactive substance also found in marijuana, and the additive vitamin E acetate.

Dakota's mother Natasha Stephenson only found out her daughter had started vaping when she was admitted to hospital.

'She was really sick,' Ms Stephenson told Daily Mail Australia. 'They took about a dozen syringes from her lungs to drain 250ml of fluid that had built up from the vaping.'

The teenager started vaping in early 2020 before moving onto nicotine cartridges and at her peak was smoking up to three times a week with her friends.

'Sometimes it would be a vape every day,' her mother said.

'She would ask for $5 to buy snacks or go to McDonald's after school, but little did we know she was saving that money up to buy nicotine cartridges.

'The guy she was buying them off would get them in with different flavours like grape, strawberry and watermelon.

'It's basically a menu for kids.'

Dakota pictured left. Doctors at Randwick Children's Hospital believe she was suffering from a recently discovered lung condition called EVALI

Ms Stephenson said she wanted e-cigarettes banned and called for Australian authorities to get tougher on manufacturers who put potentially harmful chemicals into their products.

'I don't see why Australia just can't ban them from the market,' she said.

'You can also order vapes online though. It's just too easy for young people to get their hands on them.'

The teenager's mother said she wanted e-cigarettes banned

While Dakota was released from hospital after a week, abnormal growths called nodules were still appearing on her lung scans several months after her discharge.

'They call them popcorn lungs - the nodules eventually pop on their own. But if Dakota is running or doing PE she still gets out of breath,' her mother said.

A respiratory expert said despite Dakota never using a vaping device that included THC, her case met all the obvious criteria of EVALI.

The Alfred Hospital Melbourne respiratory physician Eli Dabscheck said doctors may never know for sure what caused her lungs to fill with fluid.

'There's definitely risks from nicotine in terms of cardiac toxicity. It's definitely not something I would want my children doing,' he told ABC News .

Between March 2019 and February 2020, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention reported 2,807 hospitalised cases of EVALI.

Pictured is a scan of the teenager's lung, which was filled with fluid. Within hours of being admitted to hospital she was diagnosed with hypoxia - meaning her lungs weren't getting enough air

Disposable e-cigarettes appear marketed at young people often contain extremely harmful chemicals including nicotine (stock image of vapes not included in the study)