Is vaping affecting your health?

Vaping has steadily moved its way into mainstream Australian culture. As the science behind vapes or ‘e-cigarettes’ begins to emerge, it’s worth thinking about the potential risks.

Written by Editor Medibank

Vaping has steadily moved its way into mainstream Australian culture. As the science behind vapes or ‘e-cigarettes’ begins to emerge, it’s worth thinking about the potential risks.

Popular among many young people, students from overseas may face additional challenges. If you’re trying to navigate language barriers and cultural differences, or feel far away from home, you might be unsure about where to look for support.

Read on to learn more about the health risks of vaping and how Medibank can support your health needs.

What is vaping?

A vape is a small, battery-powered device that holds a flavoured fluid containing various chemicals, including the drug nicotine, which is considered to be highly addictive.

Many vapes are disposable, usually obtained from small corner stores or online, and last thousands of ‘puffs’. Some vapes are designed to look like tobacco cigarettes, cigars, pipes, or everyday items such as pens and USBs.

Some people believe that vapes assist with quitting smoking, however, the evidence for this is limited.

We spoke to Ravina Katyal, a Senior smoking cessation counsellor and mental health clinician for Medibank with over 22 years’ experience, to understand how vaping is affecting people and what they can do about it. Ravina works with a team of passionate Medibank health professionals who support people to quit smoking and vaping, including those who have travelled from overseas.

Ravina tells us that the habit often starts with the desire to fit in or experiment, particularly in young people.

“We hear from students who report that it was a part of the ‘cool culture’ at school, college or university,” she says. “International students, so far away from their own set of friends and family, are seeking ways and methods of coping.”

What are the risks of vaping?

The growth in vaping is partly due to the idea that vapes are a safer alternative to cigarettes. However, many experts argue that this is a misunderstanding, as there are risks associated with both and the long-term health effects of vaping are still emerging.

Ravina agrees that vaping is not harmless and the impact of wide scale use of these devices and the long-term impacts on the health of the community isn't yet known.

Several hazardous compounds have been found in disposable vape liquids, including formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein, which are known to cause cancers.

When heated and inhaled, these chemicals may be linked to altered brain development, gum disease, lung damage and heart disease.

In the short term, vaping has been associated with nausea, vomiting, airway irritation, chest pain and heart palpitations.

The nicotine in vapes can increase the symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Vaping can also increase the likelihood of taking up smoking. People are three times as likely to take up cigarette smoking when they use e-cigarettes, compared to those who don’t.

Other potential issues include leaking of nicotine, unreliable dosing and incorrect labelling.

Ravina has witnessed the real-world impact that vaping misinformation can have, especially for students from overseas who may not have easy access to the latest health advice and support.

What can I do to stop vaping?

It can be difficult to stop vaping, but there are some simple ways to make it easier.

  • Figure out why you want to quit. For example, your health, saving money to go back home and see your family or not getting addicted. Talk to your friends and family about it if you feel comfortable to do so.
  • Find ways to say “NO”. Think about how you’ll say no to a vape next time you’re offered. “It might be hard at first, but [people] need to feel empowered just to say ‘no, not today’ every time they are offered,” says Ravina.
  • Find different ways to deal with stress. If you tend to vape when you are stressed, find some alternatives that work for you. For example, exercise, listening to music or meditation apps.
  • Figure out a plan. You may want or reduce your usage gradually by setting a date to quit, or you may want to quit immediately. Have a plan ready, with how you will manage your cravings and what support you can access to achieve your goal.

If you need advice on how to quit, there are also professional services that can help you.

Where do I go for help?

If you want to speak to an expert, Ravina encourages you to call Quitline. Quitline is a free, government funded service.

Quitline provides strategies that you can use to stop vaping, and speak to someone who’s vaping addition may concern you. This service is free and confidential.

“Our advisors can take you through the necessary steps on how to get you started on your quitting journey,” adds Ravina. “We provide assistance on how you can manage the cravings to vape, if and when they arise. The advisors can also call you, at a time that is convenient for you, to provide you support as you try to quit.”

If you require assistance in a language other than English, you can ask to speak to a Quitline counsellor in Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin or Vietnamese. Or, if you’d prefer another language, Quitline uses the Translating and Interpreting Service, which provides immediate assistance from an alternative interpreter.

You can call Quitline on 13 78 48 Monday to Friday, from 8am to 8pm. Or, book a time for someone from Quitline to ring you.

Alternatively, many university campus health centres have staff who offer advice and support.

24/7 Student Health and Support Line

Need support? Medibank Overseas Student Health Cover members can call anytime for health advice from a registered nurse, counselling services, emergency legal advice, travel document assistance, interpreter service and more.

Medibank support

Medibank are here to support you with your health and wellbeing while you are in Australia.

If you hold Medibank or ahm Overseas Student Health Cover (OSHC), you have access to a 24/7 Student Health and Support Line.

This service allows you to speak to a nurse or counsellor regarding your health, or receive support navigating the Australian health system, in around 150 languages.

Medibank OSHC and ahm OSHC policyholders have 24/7 access to virtual consultations with a GP anytime, anywhere in Australia, through Online Doctor, available via the OSHC app. Out-of-pocket costs and conditions apply*.

*A minimum out-of-pocket expense of $10 applies. Please note that additional document and handling fees apply for the issue of medical documents such as medical certificates and referrals.  No benefits are payable through your OSHC policy for text only consults and no shows. Online Doctor is available 24/7 through the OSHC App, however, there may be a wait time depending on doctor availability. For privacy reasons, Partners and Dependants on a policy may not access Online Doctor through the OSHC app. Online Doctor is offered on a trial basis and may be discontinued at any time.


Written by Editor Medibank

Previous article

Using your voice this October

Next article

Am I OK? Everyday wellbeing strategies with Emily Toner

Related articles