Vaping reforms welcomed to counter ‘insidious’ tobacco industry

By Michael Woodhead

27 Jun 2024

Healthcare groups have welcomed the passing of legislation for vaping reforms, that will put an end date on the sale of disposable non-therapeutic vapes in retail stores.On 26 June the Senate passed the government’s legislation, banning the domestic manufacture, supply, commercial possession and advertisement of disposable and non-therapeutic vapes.

An amended bill means that from October 1, 2024 vapes will only be available behind the counter from a pharmacist. Originally the legislation would have made vapes available on prescription from a GP.

While not perfect, AMA President Professor Steve Robson said the reforms would reduce the widespread availability of vapes by imposing much stricter controls and closing the many loopholes left open after a campaign by the vaping and tobacco lobby watered down reforms proposed by the previous Coalition government.

“The ultimate passing of the federal government’s vaping legislation will be a major turning point in the fight against the insidious vaping and tobacco industry,” Professor Robson said.

“We commend Health Minister Mark Butler and the federal government for putting this issue firmly on their agenda, because previous attempts to regulate vaping in Australia have failed due to the failure to listen to the public health experts, leading to more and more young people taking up vaping and becoming addicted to nicotine.

Professor Robson said the evidence showed vaping was a pathway to smoking, with one in three vapers who have never smoked before ultimately taking up cigarettes.

The AMA acknowledged that the watering down of the legislation will make therapeutic vapes more accessible for adults in pharmacies, but said it would work closely with the government and pharmacists “to ensure these arrangements are robust and primarily focused on other nicotine cessation tools that are backed by sound evidence.”

“GPs have been helping patients with nicotine dependence for decades and are the best placed to support patients quitting smoking and vaping,” Professor Robson said.

The legislation was also welcome by the Cancer Council, which said it would enable effective regulation and local enforcement efforts of vapes, which until now had been ineffectual in preventing uptake among young people.

“The bill will go a long way to making sure vapes are not readily available to young people and non-smokers. It signals to young people that vaping is only for therapeutic use and should not be considered socially acceptable,”  said Chair of Cancer Council’s Public Health Committee, Anita Dessaix

“Australia has made significant progress to reduce smoking rates among young Australians, and with these new reforms, we can safeguard and improve upon Australia’s low smoking rates,”  she said.

The Heart Foundation said the proliferation of illegal sales of e-cigarettes and vapes was creating a new generation with addiction to nicotine, a drug that is known to increase the risk of a heart attack.

“E-cigarettes and vapes are not safe,” said Heart Foundation CEO David Lloyd.

“The more we learn about ‘vaping,’ the more we understand its harmful effects on the human body, including its links to heart disease.

“One recent study found that any use of e-cigarettes is associated with a 33% increased risk of having a heart attack compared to people who have never used e-cigarettes.

“Add to that the high levels of nicotine that keep people addicted, and vaping is just another deadly and costly version of tobacco smoking, which already sadly costs our nation far too much in terms of pain and suffering, as well as billions of dollars in healthcare costs.

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