The problem with ‘street vapes’

The problem with ‘street vapes’

Street vapes are, essentially, illegal vapes. You can find them behind (or under) the counter at tobacconists and bottle shops throughout Australia. For many people, this is sadly how they buy their nicotine vaping products, either due to price or convenience. Unfortunately, street vapes come with significant risks and concerns, over and above the general risks of nicotine vaping. They’re not legal, they’re not regulated, and they’re not the best way to quit. 

Here are just a few of the risks associated with street vapes.  

Unknown Ingredients

This is the big one. Studies have shown that counterfeit or low-quality vapes often contain unknown or potentially harmful substances. For example, one study in Utah found that 90% of vaping products containing THC (the psychoactive component of cannabis) were contaminated with Vitamin E acetate, a substance associated with lung injuries. The truth is, there’s no way to know exactly what’s in counterfeit e-liquid. 

Health Effects

The use of low-quality street vapes has been linked to various health problems. According to the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as of early 2020, there were over 2,800 cases of e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury (EVALI) reported in the United States. These cases resulted in 68 deaths. While EVALI cases were primarily associated with vapes containing THC, it highlights the potential risks of using poorly regulated or counterfeit vaping products.

Battery Safety Concerns

The lack of safety standards and proper manufacturing processes in low-quality vapes can lead to battery-related incidents. Some studies have documented the risk of burns or even explosions caused by counterfeit e-cigarettes. Some fire departments have also reported an increasing number of vape-related fires, primarily due to the use of low-quality or improperly handled batteries.

Counterfeit Products

Counterfeit vaping products are a growing concern. Especially those which advertise themselves as ‘nicotine free’ despite containing nicotine. This is now a criminal offence under section 42E of the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, and punishable by up to seven years imprisonment. Remember, if you’re buying street vapes, the ingredients list on the back is no guarantee of what’s in the pod. 

Legal Issues

As of 1 October 2021, it’s officially illegal to buy nicotine vaping products in Australia without an authorised prescription from a licenced pharmacy. The federal government is really cracking down on this issue, especially for young people. It means that buying street vapes is not only dangerous to your health, but also incredibly risky. Penalties vary by state, but anyone buying non-prescription vapes in Australia can face fines up to $30,960

While these examples provide an overview of the risks associated with low-quality street vapes, it's important to note that specific statistics may vary over time and across regions. It's always advisable to stay updated with local health advisories and follow the recommendations of reputable health organisations and regulatory agencies.

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