Australia to ban import of single-use vapes in major crackdown on ‘critical public health issue’
The habit poses a range of known and unknown risks to young Australians – and the federal government has had enough.
Vape users will not be in the crosshairs of the government’s crackdown which is set to take aim at suppliers and importers through bolstered regulations.
About one in seven people aged 14 to 17 and roughly one in five people aged 18 to 24 vape.
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.
People who vape are also three times more likely to take up tobacco smoking, which kills 20,000 Australians every year.
Though smoking rates are generally dropping, there is one cohort in which it is on the rise: young Australians.
Health Minister Mark Butler says the proliferation of vapes poses a major threat to Australia’s successful tobacco control regulations.
“These are the vapes that are deliberately sold to our kids — these are the vapes that have rainbow unicorns on them, bubblegum flavouring, disguised as highlighters in order for them to hide them in their pencil cases,” he said on Tuesday.
“This is not a therapeutic good.
“This is a good that is deliberately targeted at kids to recruit them to nicotine addiction.”
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, it will be illegal to import or supply any vape that does not comply with Therapeutic Goods Administration standards.
Any importers will need to 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 supply of vapes, 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.
The government is also investing $30 million in smoking cessation programs for young Australians who have already developed nicotine dependency.
“I’m not going to blame the users,” Butler said.
“I am going to blame the people who develop, import and supply them — and we’re going to try to stop that.”
Independent MP Zoe Daniel welcomed the regulations and said she hoped to see them apply to other areas such as vape retailers located near schools.
Butler said increased resources in enforcement would allow ground visits and penalties for such suppliers.
“I’m not going to pretend that, from the first of January, we’re going to be able to flick the switch and stop these things entirely, but we are determined to do everything we can,” he said.
The Australian Medical Association also congratulated the government for tackling this “critical public health issue”.
Photo by Olena Bohovyk via Pexels.