Recreational vaping ban one step closer

Michelle Wisbey

21/03/2024 3:20:50 PM

The RACGP has backed a new Commonwealth plan which would make it illegal to import, make, or sell the product, except for medical reasons.

Health Minister Mark Butler addressing media.
Federal Health and Aged Care Mark Butler launching the vaping legislation at Parliament House. (Image: AAP/Mick Tsikas)

A world-first vape ban could be on the way, after the Australian Government announced a tough new crackdown on the ‘serious public health menace’.
Introduced into Parliament on Thursday, its new legislation would make it illegal to import, manufacture, supply, commercially possess, and advertise disposable single-use and non-therapeutic vapes.
The only legal vape products left would require a prescription, with patients still able to utilise nicotine vapes for therapeutic purposes as a second-line smoking cessation measure via their GP.
Those who break the proposed laws would be at risk of significant consequences, facing up to seven years in prison or fines of up to $2.2 million.
If the legislation passes, the new laws will come into effect on 1 July this year.
Federal Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler said all Australian governments are now in lockstep and committed to stopping the ‘disturbing growth’ in vaping among young people.
He said the Bill aims to stop another generation of Australians getting lured into addiction by Big Tobacco.
‘Vapes were sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic good: a product to help hardened smokers, usually people in their 40s or 50s, to quit smoking and kick the habit,’ Minister Butler said.
‘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 chocolate bars and bubble gum in convenience stores, often down the road from schools.
‘The only groups who want to regulate and sell vaping products are those who profit once kids get hooked on nicotine – Big Tobacco and tobacco retailers.’
He confirmed legitimate patient access to therapeutic vapes would take place through pharmacy settings and the management of nicotine dependence will still be legal where clinically appropriate.
The plan comes amid increasing vaping rates, especially among young people or those who have never smoked before.
Around 1.7 million Australian adults now vape, with almost 400,000 people picking up the habit last year alone – a 30% year-on-year rise, with overall prevalence increasing by 535% since 2018.
Around 20% of all 18–24-year-olds are now current vapers, as well as one in six people aged 25–34, and one in seven children aged 14–17.
RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins urged all MPs to back the Bill, and pointed out vaping is not simply a ‘harmless alternative to smoking cigarettes’, but a dangerous product in its own right.
‘No one can be 100% sure of the long-term impacts so you are playing with fire, and we do know they contain chemicals that cause serious respiratory issues and lung damage,’ Dr Higgins said.
‘We must do everything we can to stop a new generation of nicotine users emerging, because once young people start vaping they will have a lot of trouble stopping.’
The legislation is the latest in a series of Federal Government initiatives to reduce access to vaping, following a number of bans introduced already this year.
From 1 January, the importation of all disposable vapes was banned with very limited exceptions, and from 1 March, the importation of all vapes was banned unless importers had a specific licence.
Several large-scale vape seizures have already taken place since the bans came into force, including more than 13 tonnes of disposable vapes being found in Adelaide air cargo consignments with a street value of $4.5 million.
Thursday’s legislation was also welcomed by a suite of peak health bodies all demanding change, including the Australian Medical Association, the Australian Dental Association, and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health.
Dr Higgins said GPs have a vital role to play in the fight against vaping.
‘We will continue our calls for the Government to introduce more clearly documented restrictions on tobacco lobbying to include all nicotine containing products,’ she said.
‘The RACGP will also keep fighting for all MPs and political parties to reject Big Tobacco donations and refrain from meetings with any tobacco lobbyists.
‘Vapes are not being sold by companies as a benevolent public health measure. They are trying to make money.’
This includes Big Tobacco companies financing academic papers on e-cigarettes, and a ‘cash for vapes’ scheme which would have led to pharmacists receiving $275 from Philip Morris when they order a certain type of vape.
As part of the Government’s plan, $57 million will be directed to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to support vaping regulatory development activities.
The Australian Border Force’s enforcement activities will also be bolstered thanks to a $25 million funding boost.
The Bill was formally introduced into Parliament on Thursday morning and will be debated at a later date.
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Dr Vishal Kohli   22/03/2024 7:59:18 AM

So will there soon be a tga approved vape product that I can prescribe easily without special access scheme ??

Dr Cho Oo Maung   22/03/2024 8:45:03 AM

We should ban Tobacco and alcohol, before prohabiting to sell Vaping devices. Definitely Vaping should be banned for selling under 18 years of Age.

Dr Carli Joy Westmore   22/03/2024 1:09:45 PM

I am confused. Hasn’t it been nationally illegal to sell import or buy vapes containing nicotine other than medically prescribed by a doctor within Australia with special training and authority to prescribe these privately since October 2021. I know it has been illegal in NSW since that date.