Commissioned by Cancer Council WA, researchers identified 194 stores that sell vapes as their main source of business, finding 88 per cent were located within one kilometre of a school.

They also found vape store density was nearly seven times higher in the most socio-economically disadvantaged areas than in the least disadvantaged areas. 

Lead author Dr Matthew Tuson, research fellow at the University of Notre Dame, said the pioneering study indicates this is a problem that likely exists right across the country. 

“We know from overseas studies that the tobacco industry often sets up shop in disadvantaged areas where they can prey on vulnerable populations, and we found the same pattern here with vape retailers,” Tuson said. 
“The proximity of vape stores to schools increases young people’s access to vapes and exposure to marketing, ultimately normalising e-cigarette use.
“While our study was conducted in WA, the density of vape retailers near schools and in disadvantaged communities is a problem we expect exists right across Australia.”
Co-author Professor Lisa Wood, also from the University of Notre Dame, said the findings came at a critical time when children were heading back to school and as the Federal Government gears up to tighten regulations around the sale, marketing and manufacturing of e-cigarettes this year. 

 “As children make their way back to school in the coming weeks, they will be commuting past vape stores that visibly market their wares. 

“We know that parents, teachers, and students themselves are struggling with the vaping epidemic in Australia, and these data show that vape stores are commonly located within walking distance of schools,” Wood said. 

Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, CEO of Public Health Association of Australia, warned closure of the remaining loopholes was urgently needed to stop the epidemic of young people vaping.  
“There has been a rapid explosion of vaping retailers across the country over the last few years,” Slevin said. 
“We strongly support the vaping reforms announced by Health Minister Mark Butler. These reforms will ensure comprehensive controls on vapes across all levels of the supply chain. 

“They target retailers – not people who are addicted to vaping.

"Those addicted smokers who have decided they need vapes to help them quit, will still be able to access them with a prescription and with assistance from a health professional."

The importation of disposable vapes, which are popular with school students, was banned on January 1. 

Slevin called on state and federal governments to side with public health professionals, schools and teachers and “put the health of young people first” by backing the full suite of proposed vaping reforms.

The expert has previously told EducationHQ that simply learning the risks and harms of vaping at school would not be a strong enough deterrent for students. 

“I've been in the healthcare world for almost 40 years, and very early responses to tobacco, often encouraged by the tobacco industry, is ‘education is the solution’. 

“So if we tell people it’s bad for them, that will mean they don’t do it – that’s not the reality of the world. That’s not the way it works. 

“That hasn’t worked with junk food, it hasn’t worked with alcohol. By itself [it’s] important information, but it doesn’t cut the mustard.”

Slevin said knowing the facts about vaping was no match for companies’ slick marketing tactics designed to target children. 

Published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health, the study is available online here.