The ban was originally due to come into effect in 2020, but was delayed for more than a year after strong opposition from several Coalition backbenchers who favored a more libertarian approach.
Vaping devices use electricity to heat a liquid and deliver an aerosol vapor containing chemicals such as nicotine into the lungs, rather than burning tobacco to inhale smoke. They are sold in disposable and refillable form.
Disposable vaping products are often packaged to look like cans of lollipops, with bright colors, designs that disguise the product as a pen, highlighter, or flash drive, and flavors like fruit and chocolate.
In Australia, nicotine vaping products are only legally available to adults on prescription, in pharmacies, or by personal importation. Yet users generally report that nicotine vaping products are widely available for sale at convenience stores and tobacconists and are easy to import without a prescription.
Meanwhile, vaping products without nicotine are considered consumer products and are legal for adults in most states and territories, including NSW and Victoria. It is illegal to sell vaping products to children.
Vaping advocates claim e-cigarettes are an effective way for smokers to quit, with a 2015 UK government study suggesting they are up to 95% safer than conventional cigarettes. Since the products are relatively new, the long term effects are not known.
Australian Medical Association vice-president Chris Moy said there was a strong case for banning nicotine-free e-cigarettes.
“Why are they even a thing?” he said. “They are the pinnacle of aggressive, scary and malicious marketing to children.”
TGA testing has also revealed high levels of nicotine in most vaping products, even when off-label.
Public health experts are alarmed by an apparent rise in the number of young people taking up vaping, and the NSW government last week launched an education campaign for schools, students and parents .
The Herald of the Sun Previously revealed schools across NSW are locking down toilets outside break times to crack down on student vaping.
Last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission presented a proposal to the government that the TGA should regulate all personal vaping products, not just those containing nicotine, to avoid regulatory loopholes. .
The World Health Organization also recommends that nicotine-based and non-nicotine vaping products be regulated in the same way, as they are often indistinguishable from each other, “creating loopholes that can be exploited by commercial interests. “.
Mr Hunt said the risk of a rapid rise in vaping among teens was a “deep personal concern” and he hoped more countries would follow Australia’s lead on import laws.
“These are not and should not be retail products,” Hunt said. “We have acted on medical advice from the TGA to curb the importation of these products entering Australia without proper medical authority.”
Opposition health spokesman Mark Butler said the government “needs to be clear on whether current vaping regulations are working”.
Legalize Vaping Australia campaign manager Brian Marlow said vaping should be regulated in the same way as conventional cigarettes, to allow for appropriate standards around packaging, warnings or ingredients. Failure to do so had created a “massive black market which now far exceeds the ability of the authorities to control”.
Colin Mendelsohn, author of Stop Smoking, Start Vaping, said the laws were “probably not enforceable” because “the ban doesn’t work”.
Dr Mendelsohn was previously the founding president of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, which accepted funding from the vaping industry for set-up costs, but said he did not personally accept funding. The Herald of the Sun and Sunday age does not suggest otherwise.
He agreed that some products “are brightly colored and are probably designed to appeal to young people” but “the actual harm is greatly exaggerated”.
Dr Mendelsohn said nicotine-free vapes could help smokers because they “address the hand-mouth, sensory and social aspects of smoking”.
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