E-cigarette e-liquids being promoted by an online store based in WA resembling Pokémon cartoon characters.
We are calling on the State Government to strengthen laws that protect young people from easy access to e-cigarettes following concerning new research which shows e-cigarette retailers are heavily marketing child-friendly flavours and making it too easy for WA kids to purchase their products online.
Our Make Smoking History Policy and Research Coordinator, Nicholas Wood, author of the paper published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, said the Australian-first research highlights how aggressively e-cigarettes were being carelessly promoted to children.
"Cancer Council WA audited and reviewed 30 websites which sold e-cigarettes online to customers in Perth, with a mix of stores based both in WA and interstate," Mr Wood said.
"Half of these websites don't require any age verification, which means anyone of any age can purchase these products.
"In addition, these websites are using marketing ploys reminiscent of tobacco promotion from the past: tactics like big discounts, loyalty schemes and prizes, as well as new strategies like free shipping, and buy-now pay-later schemes."
We also found that online stores marketed flavours that would be attractive to kids like "pink lemonade", "cherry burst" and "sweet kiwi-berry." One store even appeared to sell products featuring popular cartoon characters from the TV series ‘Pokémon' - so popular; the products had sold out.
"Research in places like the United States have shown that these tactics consistently lead to the uptake of e-cigarettes among young people," he said.
"Young people should not have access to e-cigarettes. We know that these products contain a range of toxic chemicals, including many which can cause cancer, and yet retailers continue to sell and promote them. It's not okay for young people to inhale these toxins into their lungs."
Mr Wood said under WA's state and federal laws, e-cigarette devices and nicotine products may not legally be sold, yet retailers were finding ways to work around these rules.
"Almost a quarter of the websites audited provided information on where and how to purchase liquid nicotine, which is illegal to sell in Australia. One in 10 websites even explained how to mix liquid nicotine - a scheduled poison - into their own products at home," he said.
The audit also found that very few of the online stores offered any health warning or safety instructions about their products, or if they did, it was often incorrect.
"It's very concerning that some stores provided ‘health information' that was unauthorised, false and misleading," he said.
"Around Australia we are seeing an increase in retailers selling and marketing e-cigarettes to young consumers. These products need to be regulated under strict conditions - not flouted online for young people to try."
Mr Wood says WA has had world-leading success in driving down smoking rates over the last three decades.
"The last thing we need is an unchecked industry creating a whole new generation of kids addicted to nicotine."
For support to Quit:
- Contact the Quitline:
- Download MyQuitBuddy app
- Visit makesmokinghistory.org.au
- Seek advice and support from your GP, Aboriginal Health Worker or pharmacist
- Visit QuitCoach
Make Smoking History is an initiative of Cancer Council WA and proudly supported by the Department of Health WA and Healthway.