The sale of flavored vapes is being banned in Australia as part of a major overhaul of how e-cigarettes are governed.
Health Minister Mark Butler dropped the bombshell on Monday’s QandA episode, adding that there will be an official announcement on Tuesday.
The strict laws will mean that Aussies will only be able to buy vapes in plain packaging from pharmacies – not convenience stores, petrol stations or other outlets.
“I’m committed to eradicating this public health threat because that’s what I think it really is,” Butler said.
“They should only be available in therapeutic settings, which are essentially pharmacies.
“Only products in plain pharmaceutical-style packaging, plain products, they have no flavours. Only those products should come to Australia.”
As part of the big push, Mr Butler is also preparing to ban disposable vapes, which are single-use e-cigarettes that do not allow refilling of the liquid that is heated electronically to produce the inhaled vapour.
Currently, vapes are available at convenience stores and tobacconists, as well as online sources, and come in a bewildering variety of flavors, shapes, and designs.
The minister said e-cigarettes were initially sold to governments as a therapeutic tool for people to quit smoking, but he accused vapemakers of targeting children instead to include the product.
“It wasn’t sold as a recreational product aimed at our kids, but that’s what it’s become,” he said.
‘Vapes are disguised as marker pens, as USB sticks so people can take them to school and it has a significant health impact on our youngest Australians.’
He accused vape makers of marketing to young people by decorating vapes with pink unicorns or giving them bubblegum flavours.
“This is a deliberate strategy by the tobacco industry to create a new generation of nicotine addicts and far from being a way out of cigarettes, as it was promoted to us, it has become a way into cigarettes for young people,” he said.
Vapes are currently being sold in a bewildering assortment of colors and flavours, which Mr Butler believes is aimed at children
Mr Butler cited a number of statistics to support his concerns about the rampant use of vapes among young people, saying one in four 18-24 year olds had tried e-cigarettes and one in six high school students had done the same .
He also claimed that vaping is the “number one behavioral problem in high schools and fast becoming the number one issue in elementary schools” and states that vapers were three times more likely to start smoking than those who did not use them.
Mr Butler was responding to a question from 20-year-old student nurse Sigrid, an audience member who asked what the government is doing to curb the popularity of e-cigarettes among young people.
The extent of the crackdown will be revealed in May’s federal budget, Butler said Friday.
Health Minister Mark Butler has announced a crackdown on vapes, banning their widespread sale, disposable products and products in various colors and flavours, aimed at young people
Mr Butler said one difficulty in tackling imports was the right regulatory framework, which would allow individual states and territories to enforce them.
“I think what’s happened is the Commonwealth has said there’s nothing we can do about the fact that this has just gone crazy because it’s a state and territory policing issue,” he said.
“Then the states and territories say why should we divert resources from capturing robbers and murderers in vapes when the borders are just all open?
“So we need to take action at the border. States must take action on policing and retail. I think there is enthusiasm to do that.’
In March, a health scientist said only pharmacies are allowed to import vapes because other retailers, manufacturers and importers are falsely labeling nicotine vapes, which were banned in Australia at the end of 2021, as nicotine-free.
Vape use among young people has become a major concern for health authorities
Becky Freeman, an associate professor at the University of Sydney, said the legal importation of nicotine-free vapes was a loophole that should be closed with a full ban except for pharmacies to sell e-cigarettes that curb addiction.
A major concern about the stream of vapes imported from China is that many contain unregistered toxic and carcinogenic chemicals, such as formaldehyde, as well as heavy metals, such as nickel, tin, and lead.
Mr Butler said the Victorian Poisons Hotline had received 50 calls about children under four swallowing steaming liquids.
The government has allocated $63 million in next week’s budget to campaign to discourage Australians from vaping or smoking.
Another $30 million will be funneled into cessation support programs and training health care workers in nicotine withdrawal.
A separate program to address Indigenous smoking will be expanded to include vaping, costing an additional $140 million.
Worry about vaping facts
– Many vapes contain nicotine which makes them addictive
– Vapes can contain the same harmful chemicals as cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray
– Vapes may put young people at increased risk of depression and anxiety
– The nicotine in one can = 50 cigarettes. Depending on the size of the vapor and nicotine strength, it can be much higher
– Young people who vape are 3 times more likely to start smoking cigarettes
– Vape aerosol is not water vapor
– Vaping has been linked to lung disease.
– Vaping can have long-term harmful effects on brain and physical development.
Source: NSW Government