Australia’s government is about to enforce stronger regulations against vaping, including a ban on recreational use and stopping the imports of all e-cigarettes that are non-prescription, including the ones labeled as nicotine-free.
This is an effort made by the Health Ministry and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TDA), and backed by health professional bodies, public health associations, and university researchers, to stop the increasing recreational use of e-cigarettes, especially among young adults and teenagers.
The ban also includes restricting flavors and colors of e-cigarettes, mandatory pharmaceutical-style packaging, reducing the nicotine levels allowed, and forbidding single-use, disposable devices. E-cigarettes will no longer be sold in convenience stores and other non-pharmaceutical shops.
“This is a public health menace, particularly impacting younger Australians. It is a deliberate strategy, I think, of Big Tobacco to create a new generation of nicotine addicts,” said Health Minister Mark Butler In a recent interview with ABC: “We simply can’t stand by and let that happen.”
Australia’s Struggle With Vaping
On paper, Australia already has a strong vaping regulation, demanding a medical prescription in order to buy nicotine-based e-cigarettes. But the market, often convenience stores close to schools, is filled with unregulated vaping devices claiming to be nicotine-free, which many times turn out to contain high levels of nicotine, as well as other toxic ingredients.
According to University of Sidney’s Public Health Professor Becky Freeman, it is no coincidence that the explosion of teenage vaping in Australia coincides with the marketing of candy-like vaping products: “Teens and children have been preyed on by an industry that has designed products to appeal to young people.”
Indeed, Australia’s youth vaping rates doubled between 2016 and 2019. According to BBC News, one in six Australians aged 14-17 has vaped, as well as one in four aged 18-24. In comparison, “only 1 in 70 people my age has vaped,” said 52-year-old minister Butler.
A research paper about vaping in New South Wales found that nicotine vaping products, often disposable and flavored, were readily available for teenagers and young adults in the region.
The government’s new regulation includes $234 million AUS in funding for reform, $63 million of which are intended for public information, evidence-based campaigns to discourage vaping and smoking; and $30 million for programs to help Australians quit their nicotine addiction.
Potential Health Risks Of Vaping
E-cigarettes have often been marketed as a healthy way of quitting conventional tobacco, since they do not produce tar associated with lung cancer, as traditional cigarettes do.
But even though the long-term effects of vaping are still under study, according to the Australian Department of Health they often contain harmful substances that are also carcinogens, such as formaldehyde, acetaldehyde, and acrolein.
The Lung Foundation Australia points out that “There is a common misconception that vaping is merely harmless water vapour — in fact, it’s an aerosol made up of toxic particles.” Additionally, e-cigarettes commonly contain much higher nicotine levels than tobacco, and vaping is also associated with the future uptake of cigarette smoking, especially in teenagers and young adults.
Thus, Australia takes part in a growing list of more than 30 countries where vaping is regulated, including some countries, like Argentina, Brazil, and Nepal, where there is now a complete e-cigarette ban.