Sydney leads new trial of youth vaping schools program

10 April 2024
The University of Sydney is leading a new approach to reduce the number of young people vaping and smoking in a trial in schools across the country.

Targeting Year 7 and 8 students, the OurFutures Vaping program was co-designed with educators and students and is the first rigorously developed online vaping prevention program currently under evaluation.

The response to the program has been positive, with 85 percent of students and 89 percent of teachers rating the program very highly. More importantly, 81 percent of students felt what they learned would help them in the future.

(L-R) Conor Hinds (Matilda Centre Youth Advisory Board member), Associate Professor Emily Stockings, Education Minister Jason Clare and Health Minister Mark Butler. 

Developed and delivered by the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre, building on years of successful drug and alcohol prevention research and supported by the Australian Government’s Medical Research Future Fund, the program aims to work with young people to empower them to protect their health and wellbei

The OurFutures Vaping program was showcased at an event attended by federal Health Minister Mark Butler and federal Education Minister Jason Clare.

The Parliament now has a once-in-a-generation opportunity and responsibility to act to safeguard the health of young Australians for generations to come.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said:

“Vapes were sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic good: a product that could help hardened smokers – usually people in their 40s or 50s – to quit smoking and kick the habit.

“If vapes are therapeutic goods then it is entirely appropriate that Australia should regulate them as therapeutic goods, instead of allowing them to be sold alongside candy bars in convenience stores, often down the road from schools.

“The Parliament now has a once-in-a-generation opportunity and responsibility to act to safeguard the health of young Australians for generations to come. The best time to have done this was five years ago, the second-best time is now.

“We urge all Parliamentarians to stand with parents, teachers, schools, doctors and public health experts who are calling for urgent action to stop Big Tobacco from cynically preying on young Australians.”

Director of the Matilda Centre Professor Maree Teesson and Associate Professor Emily Stockings say interest in the program is growing, with a 2024 early access scheme for 250 schools already fully subscribed.

This illustrates the growing concern of Australian schools and teachers about vaping and their willingness to tackle the public health menace.

Both recently gave evidence at a parliamentary inquiry into e-cigarette regulation and compliance in New South Wales.

Programs like Our Futures are not only backed by rigorously tested evidence, but are developed in partnership ... and give young people a say in their own health decisions
Associate Professor Emily Stockings

"We are seeing young people addicted to nicotine at rates we've not seen for decades. Preventing nicotine dependence before it develops is the best approach, because it impacts brain development and is incredibly difficult to quit," says Associate Professor Stockings.

“Programs like Our Futures are not only backed by rigorously tested evidence, but are developed in partnership with young people, parents, teachers, and educators, and give young people a say in their own health decisions.

The Our Futures Program is also co-led by Professor Nicola Newton and Dr Lauren Gardner.

“Our research has shown that engaging Australia’s youth by co-designing reliable, evidence-based resources that they trust breaks through misinformation and gives our youth the tools for a healthier future,” says Professor Newton.

“It is encouraging that Governments on all levels are serious about combatting vaping harms in young people and we look forward to furthering research into school-based and social-media based interventions in two new MRFF and NHMRC-funded trials.”

For free confidential support call the Quitline on 13 78 48. You can also head to Quit Now for the latest resources.

Media contact

Ivy Shih

Media and Public Relations Adviser (Medicine and Health)

Related articles