The sale of flavoured vapes will been banned in Australia as part of a major overhaul of how e-cigarettes are governed
Health Minister Mark Butler dropped the major bombshell on Monday’s episode of QandA, adding an official announcement will come on Tuesday.
The strict laws will mean Aussies can only purchase vapes at pharmacies – not convenience stores, service stations or any other shops.
‘I am determined to stamp out this public health menace because that’s what I think it genuinely is,’ Mr Butler said.
‘They should only be available in therapeutic settings, which is essentially pharmacies.
‘Only products that are pharmaceutical style plain package, plain products, they don’t have flavours only those products should come into Australia.’
As part of the major push Mr Butler is also preparing to ban disposable vapes, which are single use e-cigarettes that don’t allow refills of the liquid used to produce the vapour.
Currently vapes are available from convenience stores and tobacco outlets as well as from online sources and come in a bewildering variety of flavours, shapes and designs.
The minister said e-cigarettes, more commonly known as vapes, were initially sold to governments as a therapeutic aid for people to quit smoking but he accused vapemakers of instead targeting children to take up the product.
‘It was not sold as a recreational product targeted at our kids but that’s what it has become,’ he said.
‘Vapes are disguised as highlighter pens, as USB sticks so that people can take them to school and it is having a significant health effect on our youngest Australians.’
He accused vape-makers of marketing to young people by decorating vapes with pink unicorns or giving them bubblegum flavours.
‘This is a deliberate strategy by the tobacco industry to create a new generation of nicotine addicts and far from being a pathway out of cigarettes, which is what it was promoted to us as, it has become a pathway into cigarettes for young people,’ he said.
Vapes are currently sold in a bewildering assortment of colours and flavours, which Mr Butler believes target children
The use of vapes among young people has become a major concern for health authorites
Mr Butler quoted a number of statistics to support his concerns about the rampant use of vapes among the young, saying one in four 18 to 24-year-olds had tried e-cigarettes and one in six high school students had done likewise.
He also claimed vapes are the ‘the number one behavioural issue in high schools and are rapidly becoming the number one issue in primary schools’ and state that vapers were three times more likely to take up smoking than those who didn’t use them.
Mr Butler was responding to a question by 20-year-old trainee nurse Sigrid, an audience member who asked what the government was doing to combat the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people.
The extent of the crackdown will be revealed in the May federal Budget, Mr Butler said on Friday.
Mr Butler said that a difficulty in tackling the imports was getting the regulatory framework right, which would empower individual states and territories to enforce them.
‘I think what’s been happening is the Commonwealth has been saying we can’t do anything about the fact that this has just gone nuts because it’s a state and territory policing issue,’ he said.
‘Then the states and territories say why should we divert resources from catching robbers and murderers into vapes when the borders are just completely open?
‘So we’ve got to take action on the border. States have to take some action around policing and retail arrangements. I think there’s the appetite to do that.’
In March a health academic said that only pharmacies should be allowed to import vapes because other retailers, manufacturers and importers falsely label nicotine vapes, outlawed in Australia in late 2021, as nicotine-free.
Sydney University Associate Professor Becky Freeman said the legal importation of nicotine-free vapes was a loophole that needed to be closed with a complete ban imposed except for pharmacies to sell e-cigarettes that curb addiction.
The government has committed $63 million in next week’s budget to conducting a campaign to discourage Australians from vaping or smoking.
A further $30 million will be funneled to quit support programs and to training health practitioners in how to wean people off nicotine.
A separate tackling Indigenous smoking program will be widened to include vaping, costing an extra $140 million.
Worry vaping facts
– Many vapes contain nicotine making them addictive
– Vapes can contain the same harmful chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray
– Vapes can leave young people at increased risk of depression and anxiety
– The nicotine in one vape can = 50 cigarettes. Depending on the size of the vape and nicotine strength, it can be much higher
– Young people who vape are 3 times as likely to take up smoking cigarettes
– Vape aerosol is not water vapour
– Vaping has been linked to lung disease.
– Vapes can cause long-lasting damaging effects on the brain and physical development.
Source: NSW Government