Govt announces crackdown on smoking, vaping

Lung cancer

13 Sep 2023

The Commonwealth has unveiled tougher laws to combat cigarettes and vaping, including new requirements around graphic warnings and a ban on certain additives.

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler says the legislation is the critical next step in the fight against smoking and nicotine addiction, warning the country is currently not on track to meet its target of a smoking rate under 5% by 2030.

If passed, the laws would set out standardised sizes for all tobacco packets and products and standardise the design and look of cigarette filters.

In addition, specified additives such as menthols would be prohibited, as would “appealing” names that imply reduced harm.

Health promotion inserts would also be required in packs and pouches to further convince smokers to kick the habit.

The government aims to reduce the national smoking rate to less than 10 per cent by 2025, 5 per cent or less by 2030, and 27 per cent or less by 2030 for First Nations people.

The new laws will take effect from 1 April 2024. Industry will be given a year to comply with requirements, with retailers given a further three months.

Mr Butler said that with tobacco use estimated to kill more than 50 Australians every day, it remained the nation’s leading cause of preventable death and disability.

“Australia has been a leader in public health measures to discourage smoking, but after a decade of inaction, the gains of Labor’s world-leading plain packaging laws have been squandered,” he said on Wednesday.

“Since the inception of plain packaging, big tobacco has become increasingly creative and cunning with their marketing tactics.”

“The Government is determined to support Australians tackling nicotine dependency and this next generation reform will cease any form of enticement.”

These reforms would also complement the government’s commitment to stamp out vaping, with e-cigarettes to be captured in advertising restrictions, he said.

It follows the introduction of legislation earlier this year targeting the growing black market in illegal vaping, including strict controls on their importation, contents and packaging.

But research published in the MJA this week suggests the government is facing an uphill battle, with a fifth of young people having vaped in the past 12 months (link here).

The survey answered by 4204 high school students aged 14-17 found that 26% had ever used an e-cigarette, with the mean age of first use being 14 years.

E-cigarette use in the past 12 months was reported by 20.4% of respondents, and current regular use by 5.7% of respondents.

The study found that the prevalence of use in the past twelve months was higher for boys and non-binary participants than for girls, however socio-economic status and remoteness did not have an influence.

Lead author Dr Lauren Gardner of the University of Sydney’s Matilda Centre for Research in Mental Health and Substance Use called for a multilevel approach to tackle the problem.

“We need more support for young people through the primary care system,” Dr Gardner said.

“The delivery of evidence-based prevention programs and resistance skills training in schools will also be critical.”

“Additionally, support needs to happen at a government level, such as through e-cigarette control policies, investment in prevention and cessation support, and communication campaigns.”

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