The federal government declares war on vaping and announces measures to eradicate its recreational use – especially among young people – including through stricter legislation and enforcement.
In a harsh message to be delivered Tuesday, Health Secretary Mark Butler states: “Vaping has become the number one behavioral problem in high schools. And it is becoming widespread in primary schools.”
The government will work with the states and territories to clamp down on the increasing black market for vaping, including to stop the illegal importation of over-the-counter vapes.
Minimum quality standards for prescription vaporizers are raised, with restrictions on flavors and colors.
Prescription vapes will have to come in “pharmacy-style packaging” (following the example of regular packaging for cigarettes). Permissible nicotine concentrations and volumes will be reduced and disposable single-use vapes will be banned.
The governments will work with other jurisdictions to halt the sale of vapes and end sales at convenience stores and other retailers. But it will also make it easier for people to get a prescription for legitimate therapeutic use.
Read more: How can I help my teen quit vaping?
Next week’s budget will provide $234 million to tackle smoking and vaping.
In an excerpt released ahead of his speech at the National Press Club, Butler warns that the gains made in the fight against smoking “may be undone by a new threat to public health.”
“Vaping was marketed to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit,” says Butler.
“It wasn’t sold as a recreational product – certainly not as a product for our children. But it has become that: the biggest loophole in Australian history.
“One in six teens between the ages of 14 and 17 has vaped. One in four people between the ages of 18 and 24 has vaped.
Read more: From October it will be almost impossible for most Australians to vape – largely due to Canberra’s little-known ‘homework police’
“On the other hand, only one in 70 people my age has vaped.
And when more than a thousand teens ages 15 to 17 were asked where to get vapes, four out of five said they found it easy or somewhat easy to buy them in stores.
“This is a product aimed at our children, sold alongside lollipops and chocolate bars,” says Butler.
“In the past 12 months, Victoria’s toxins hotline has taken 50 calls about children under four who have become ill from ingesting or using a vape.”
Butler says that, as with smoking, “Big Tobacco has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in glossy packaging, and added flavors to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.
“Vapers are three times more likely to start smoking, which explains why under-25s are the only cohort in the community currently recording an increase in smoking.
“This has got to end,” says Butler.
Read more: Everyone’s NOT doing it: how schools and parents should talk about vaping
The budget money includes $63 million for a public health campaign to discourage people from smoking and vaping and encourage cessation. About $30 million will be spent on smoking cessation support programs and on education and training for health professionals.
Another $140 million will go to the Tackling Indigenous Smoking program, including expansion to address vaping.