Kate Walker was only 16 years old when she started vaping, and it wasn’t long before she couldn’t go half an hour without a puff, she said.
“I always had a vape with me,” Walker, now aged 20, said.
“It was the first thing (I did) when I woke up and the last thing (I did) before I went to bed. Even in the middle of the night, if I woke up, it would be on my bedside table just in case.”
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Walker was given her first vape by someone at her Sydney school, and said she didn’t know it contained nicotine.
But changes in Walker’s health made her question what she was actually inhaling.
Kate Walker said she felt healthier soon after she quit vaping. Credit: Supplied
“I was out of breath all the time. My skin got a lot worse (with acne) I would cough up black phlegm stuff, which was so gross,” she said.
The catalyst to encourage Walker to stop vaping was when doctors told her, at age 18, that vaping had contributed to her getting pneumonia because of fluid build-up in her lungs.
Walker spent weeks trying to kick the addiction, which she said was difficult because of withdrawal symptoms.
“I felt irritable. I felt anxious. I felt frustrated. It was just the worst,” she said.
“I tried the like the nicotine patches, but they were making me vomit in the middle of the night.”
Walker said most of her schoolmates were vaping.
Some students would buy vapes online and resell them, while others would get them from convenience stores, she said.
Crack down on Australia’s vaping problem
The Federal Government estimates one in six high school students are vaping, and about one in four young Australians aged between 18 and 24 are vaping.
From January 1, new regulations came into force banning the importation of vapes and requiring people to get a prescription for vapes containing nicotine.
On Tuesday, one month since the bans, the Australian Border Force said they had stopped more than 25,000 disposable vapes, equivalent to 13 tonnes, from entering the community when they searched a number of air cargo consignments in Adelaide.
The Australian Border Force confiscated 25,000 vapes. Credit: 7NEWS
“Before our government changed the loopholes in existing laws, millions and millions of disposable vapes were able to flood into Australia — vapes that are deliberately marketed at our children,” Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said.
“Single use disposable vapes are brightly coloured, and bubble gum flavoured, intended to entice young kids who are using them. This is all part of a Big Tobacco’s plan to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction,” he said.
Walker was part of a NSW Health campaign to prevent people from smoking.
NSW Health warns vapes can cause lung damage and contain cancer causing ingredients.
Soon after quitting, Walker described feeling much healthier, was no longer easily winded, and had no phlegm and better skin.
“Just don’t do it (vape) because quitting is the hardest thing. I wouldn’t want to start again because I don’t want to quit again,” she said.
“To people that are currently vaping, I would say that quitting seems impossible, and it seems like the hardest thing in the world, but thinking about it in little short-term achievements makes it a lot easier to get off.”