Biggest health crisis in 50 years: State ministers join forces for vaping bans

Australia’s health ministers are calling on the federal parliament to introduce proposed strong vaping laws as soon as possible to prevent devastating health impacts to children.

Apr 19, 2024, updated Apr 19, 2024
The state government has been urged to act immediately against vaping for young Queenslanders.  (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

The state government has been urged to act immediately against vaping for young Queenslanders. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)

New legislation was introduced last month to stop the importation, manufacture, supply and commercial possession of disposable single use vapes, making the e-cigarettes only accessible via prescription at pharmacies.

The crackdown would also see jail time or fines up to $2.2 million for breaches.

Health ministers from every jurisdiction have called on the Australian parliament to pass the legislation – which would take effect from July – amid a growing nicotine crisis for young people.

“Tobacco control started in Australia 50 years ago with advertising, years later our understanding of the devastating health impacts continues to evolve,” health ministers said in a joint statement on Friday.

“Australian health ministers are not going to stand by and let history repeat itself.”

They are concerned the impact vaping is having on Australian children due to the easy access and how readily available e-cigarettes are – most sold at convenience stores often down the road from schools.

“It’s now clear vapes are being used to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction, and it’s working,” they said.

The latest national data revealed one in six high school students recently vaped, and young people who vape are three times more likely to take up smoking.

The vapes may already be marketable and available to young people but NSW Health Minister Ryan Park said this should not mean the nation sits on its hands.

“I’ve got a 13-year-old, if he decides to start vaping he’s not doing that to get off cigarette smoking,” he told ABC radio.

“He’s doing that because he’s been hooked and marketed towards and all of a sudden, they’re hooked on nicotine, a product that we know is highly addictive and that has caused untold damage.”

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the bill was not about prohibition but regulation and returning the devices to what they were originally sold as – therapeutic products.

“I mean, it’s no more prohibition than the reforms that took place around the availability of codeine,” he told reporters

“What that did was return codeine to the regulation as a therapeutic good, and that’s what we’re doing with e-cigarettes.”

The legislation is yet to pass through parliament as it is facing potential opposition from the Coalition and the Greens who have not given a stance.

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