The Australian government will try to eradicate recreational vaping by banning nicotine-free vapes and only allowing those that contain nicotine to be sold by pharmacies in medical-style packaging to people with prescriptions.
“Vaping is creating a whole new generation of nicotine addiction in our community,” Australian Health Minister Mark Butler said in a May 2 press release. “This poses a major threat to Australia’s success in tobacco control.”
Since 2021, Australia has only allowed the sale of nicotine-containing vapes in pharmacies to people who have been prescribed by a doctor to help them quit smoking. However, nicotine-free vapes are legally available at convenience stores, gas stations, and other retailers.
Because these nicotine-free vapes are difficult to regulate, “there are many cases of products being falsely labeled as nicotine-free or simply not mentioning nicotine in the ingredients even when it is there,” says Oliver Jones of the RMIT University of Melbourne.
These nicotine-containing products, which often come in bright, fruity-flavored packaging, are having young people hooked, says Becky Freeman of the University of Sydney. According to a national survey, 5.3% of 18-24 year olds used e-cigarettes in 2019, nearly double the rate in 2016, and research suggests that those who use them are three times more likely to start smoking.
“Although vapes were first introduced as a tool to help adults quit smoking or reduce tobacco use, these devices are widely used by young people who do not or have never used vape. tobacco,” says Courtney Barnes of the University of Newcastle in Australia.
To try to remedy this, the government will ban nicotine-free vapes and toughen the rules for prescription nicotine vapes: the amount of nicotine they are allowed to contain will be reduced, flavors and colorings will be restricted and they must be sold in pharmaceutical-looking packaging. Single-use disposable vapes will be prohibited.
“These are supposed to be pharmaceuticals, so they will have to present themselves that way – no more chewing gum flavors or pink unicorn packaging,” Butler said in a speech at the National Press Club of Australia on May 2. . A timeline for implementation has not been announced.
Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, with only 11% of people over the age of 15 smoking daily. It achieved this by introducing mandatory plain packaging for cigarettes with graphic health warnings, raising their cost through taxes, and banning smoking in many public places.
Butler said cracking down on recreational vaping was crucial to preventing those gains from being reversed. “We will not sit idly by and allow vaping to create another generation of nicotine addicts.”
“While there may be potential unintended effects of this decision, for example restricting vaping could lead people back to traditional cigarettes, which are obviously worse, I think they are unlikely and therefore the announcement of today is a welcome move by the government,” Jones said.