New tobacco and nicotine laws ‘to be in place by next April’

Jolyon Attwooll

13/09/2023 4:28:13 PM

Legislation entered Parliament this week, with measures to deter smoking among young people as well as cut the appeal of vapes.

Cigarette packet
The laws would bring changes to graphic warnings on cigarette packages. (Image: AAP)

Proposed new laws that would further tighten Australia’s tobacco controls should be in place by April next year, according to Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler.
In an announcement on Wednesday, Minister Butler said legislation had entered Parliament and will come into force on 1 April 2024, if passed.
The measures include steps to:

  • improve graphic warnings on packaging, including warnings on individual cigarettes
  • standardise the tobacco packet and product sizes
  • prevent the use of additives in tobacco products such as menthols
  • standardise the design and look of filters
  • limit the use of appealing names that imply reduced harm
  • require health promotion inserts in packs and pouches
  • improve transparency for tobacco sales, product contents, and advertising and promotional activities
  • capture vapes in advertising restrictions.
It follows a consultation process on further restrictions that began last year, with draft legislation released for feedback in May.
For Dr Hester Wilson, Chair of RACGP Specific Interests Addiction Medicine, the introduction of the legislation to Parliament is welcome.
‘We have led the way with the plain packaging laws,’ she told newsGP. ‘This is a good step to make things more stringent.’
Minister Butler described it as ‘the first suite of major reforms in more than 12 years’, noting that a goal of reducing the smoking rate to 5% by 2030 is not currently on target.
‘And the reason we haven’t is that Big Tobacco has adapted and innovated and been quite cunning about ways in which they get around the plain packaging intent and make their deadly product appeal to particularly younger Australians where smoking rates are actually climbing,’ he told the ABC on Wednesday.
‘So today’s reforms are really directed at updating our efforts and making sure we can stamp out those new marketing tactics from Big Tobacco.’
While the legislation seeks to limit vape advertising, it does not include measures to cut supply.
The Minister said that discussions are underway with the state and territory Health Ministers for laws he hopes will facilitate a planned crackdown on their supply.
‘I’m confident we can now do it through a single piece of legislation through the Commonwealth Parliament,’ he stated.   
‘That’s important because previously we were facing the prospect of having to get legislation through every single parliament in the country, which is obviously a very long, difficult process.
‘We know that sometimes when we put these measures in place, particularly when they’re world leading, that the industry arcs up, the industry takes legal action.
‘So we’re determined to get this right.’
He said he hopes much tighter import controls on vapes will be in place by the end of the year.
Dr Wilson said she supports measures to cut vape supplies.
‘The genie is out of the bottle, but we’ve got to try and put it back in,’ she said.  
‘If it’s going to be anything, it’s going to be part of smoking cessation, harm minimisation.
‘It’s really seeing it as a medical product rather than a consumer product – getting rid of the colours, getting rid of the flavours, getting rid of the ones that you can blow amazing smoke rings from, the single use ones.’
For the new tobacco legislation, industry will have a year to comply with requirements if the laws pass, while retailers will have an additional three months.
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