TikTok should be used by the government to get its anti-vaping message through to young people and ensure the success of proposed regulations, a social education researcher has urged.

Dr Linda Lorenza, from Central Queensland University, who has conducted a research program on young people in Queensland, told Central News: “It’s great that they’re going to implement plain packaging, that they’re going to ban the fancy flavours, but I think it comes down to the messaging.

“It will be interesting to see how quickly they get this through and how quickly we will start to see the effects on vape suppliers.”

Dr Lorenza said for young people to be engaged in messaging on vapes, they “have to be short and have to be entertaining”. During her research she found social networking platforms like TikTok were the most effective for communicating with young people. But it’s yet to be seen if her advice will be welcomed by the government, which recently banned the app from government employee phones in a response to fears the Chinese app represented a national security threat.

The hashtag #PopcornLung, a health condition caused by vaping, was trending on TikTok during her research and Dr Lorenza said students who saw this moved to educate themselves on the condition and its effects on their health.

Her remarks follow the announcement by Health Minister Mark Butler on Tuesday of a raft of policy proposals designed to stamp out vaping in Australia, including pharmaceutical style packaging, a ban on flavoured vapes and tougher enforcement to put an end to the black market.

It’s a conversation so that young people can have the courage to say ‘actually, that’s not really good for you’.

There are concerns that the colourful packaging and enticing flavours used by vape companies target children, and vape retailers have even been accused of setting up down the road from schools.

Dr Lorenza said the emotional, social, and physical effects of vaping devices were of particular concern for young people.

She believes policymakers will need to “trigger [discussion] so that it’s a conversation so that young people can have the courage to say ‘actually, that’s not really good for you’”.

On Tuesday, during a talk at the National Press Club, Butler warned vaping is “the biggest loophole in Australian healthcare history”, adding this “new threat to public health” could undermine years of work done by the government to lower smoking rates.

The government’s proposed regulations aim to set higher quality standards for the products and ban the importation of vaping devices intended to be sold to people without a prescription.

There are also plans to adopt ‘pharmaceutical style’ packaging and ‘plain flavours’ in hopes of decreasing the appeal vaping has on youth.

“We will not standby and allow vaping to create another generation of nicotine addicts,” Butler told the NPC.

Plans for the new regulations have been announced as rates of nicotine consumption in young people have skyrocketed.



The Australian Bureau of Statistics found just over one in five (21.7 per cent) of 18–24-year-olds have used a vape or e-cigarette device at least once, leading to concerns a new generation of nicotine addicts may be emerging.

Main image by Zac Nikolovski.