Country’s health ministers united in plea for federal parliament to pass vaping laws

Ellen RansleyNCA NewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Australia’s health ministers have conceded their plans to crack down on vaping will “not be easy” as they plead with the federal parliament to urgently pass laws.

Standing united in Brisbane on Friday, the ministers – led by federal Health Minister Mark Butler – declared they would not “stand by and let our kids get hooked on nicotine”.

“We never pretended this is going to be easy. And we, as a health ministers group, have a responsibility to do everything we can to shut down the supply of vapes to (our young people),” Mr Butler said.

“Not only is this a public health menace to our youngest Australians and an environmental menace … we also know it is increasingly a lucrative source of revenue for organised criminal gangs.”

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Camera IconFederal Health Minister Mark Butler led a meeting with his state and territory counterparts on Friday. NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard Credit: News Corp Australia

The laws, currently before a committee before they are debated in federal parliament, would crack down on single-use and non-therapeutic vapes while preserving access to therapeutic vapes for legitimate patients.

It follows a crackdown on vaping imports earlier this year.

Mr Butler said Australia, like the rest of the world, had been told vapes would help “hardened smokers kick the habit”, but the industry had taken advantage of children and young people.

Camera IconThe federal parliament has been urged to pass laws cracking down on vapes. NCA NewsWire /Gaye Gerard Credit: News Corp Australia

“It was never sold to us as a recreational product, especially not one that would be targeted towards our kids and that is what it has become,” he said.

“Nine out of 10 vaping stores are deliberately set up within walking distance of schools because that is the target market.

“This is clearly nothing more and nothing less than an insidious device from big tobacco to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction. The tragedy is, it’s working.”

An estimated one in six high school students, and one in four Australians aged between 18 and 24, are vaping.

Mr Butler called on his parliamentary colleagues to back up the work of public health groups, health authorities and the Therapeutic Goods Administration and “allow us to put in place” regulation that returns vapes to their original intention as a therapeutic good.

“If that’s what it’s supposed to be, it should be regulated like a therapeutic good,” he said.

Camera IconThe country’s health ministers made a united plea to the federal parliament on Friday. NCA NewsWire/Tertius Pickard Credit: News Corp Australia

The health ministers urged the parliament to keep with Australia’s “proud” tradition of tight tobacco control.

The Coalition’s health spokeswoman, Anne Ruston, said the Coalition had concerns about the legislation.

“We are concerned that entrenching the existing failing model will not prevent children from having access to vaping products and will further drive the sale of these products to the black market,” she said.

“The government must explain how their measures will prevent children accessing these products, not fuel the black market, adequately fund enforcement measures, both at the border and at point of sale, and measure the success or failure of their policy.”

Smoking and vaping laws

In a statement last month as the proposed laws were sent to committee, Greens health spokesman Jordan Steele-John said the legislation would be “world-leading” but needed proper scrutiny.

“We need a carefully regulated scheme that focuses on public health outcomes, reducing harm and minimising use,” he said.

“We’ll be looking at the practicalities of the prescription model. Right now, GP appointments are booked out and are unaffordable to many. We must ensure that no one is incentivised to return to cigarette smoking and that people can get support when they need it.

“We’ve got to get this right.”

The ministers said vapes should be used therapeutically if recommended by a person’s medical team, but that should not mean they were sold “alongside chocolate bars in convenience stores”.

“Australian health ministers encourage consumers to speak with their doctor or other qualified health professional about the options for quitting vapes or the management of nicotine dependence,” they said in a communique.

Originally published as Country’s health ministers united in plea for federal parliament to pass vaping laws

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