Australians will soon find it harder to access vapes, as the government attempts to prevent the industry creating a new generation of nicotine addicts.
About one in seven 14- to 17-year-olds and roughly one in five 18- to 24-year-olds vape.
While the habit poses a range of known and unknown risks to young Australians due to high nicotine content and toxic chemicals in e-cigarette liquids, those who vape are also three times more likely to take up tobacco smoking which kills 20,000 Australians every year.
Health Minister Mark Butler says the proliferation of vapes poses a major threat to Australia’s successful tobacco control regulations.
“Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit,” he said.
“It was not sold as a recreational product – especially not one targeted to our kids, but that is what it has become”
As a result, the government will begin implementing a raft of vaping reforms in 2024.
From January 1, the importation of disposable single-use vapes will be banned while a new access scheme will allow doctors and nurses to prescribe therapeutic vapes where appropriate.
From March, the government will put a stop to the importation of personal and non-therapeutic vapes.
Any importers will need to ensure their products meet the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s standards and obtain a licence and permit from the drug regulator.
Later in the year, the government is also expected to limit vape flavours, regulate nicotine concentration and mandate pharmaceutical packaging for vape and e-cigarette products.
Though some critics believe these regulations could fuel the black market, Mr Butler says they will still provide a sizeable obstacle to vaping.
“There will no doubt be some vapes that get into the country but they will no longer be easy for school children, our most vulnerable and impressionable members of society, to get their hands on them,” he said.
Independent MP Zoe Daniel welcomed the regulations but hoped to see them apply to other areas like vape retailers.
“There’s particular concern about retail and the proximity of retail to shopping strips, schools and other things,” Ms Daniel said.
“There’s one piece – which is that Border Force piece – in the announcement, but there’s also that availability piece, the fact that we know kids are vaping in toilets during lunch time at high schools across all our cities and towns.”
(Australian Associated Press)