Australia’s near-ban on vaping targets ‘widespread’ use in schools – National

Australia said on Tuesday it will ban recreational vaping and tighten other aspects of e-cigarette laws in the biggest crackdown on the tobacco industry in more than a decade to try to stop an alarming rise in teenage vaping.

The government aims to ban all disposable vapes, which often comes in fruity flavors, ban the import of non-prescription vapes and limit nicotine levels, aiming for the sale of vapes to be confined to helping smokers quit.

“Just like they did with smoking, Big Tobacco has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added flavors to create a new generation of nicotine addicts,” Health Minister Mark Butler said in a speech at the National Press Club.

Vaping, widely seen as a safer alternative to smoking cigarettes and useful for helping smokers quit, involves heating a liquid that contains nicotine in what is called an e-cigarette and turning it into a vapor that users inhale.

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But studies have shown the potential of long-term harm from the addictive e-cigarettes.

Under the new rules, vapes will be sold only in pharmacies and require “pharmaceutical-type” packaging. Disposable vapes popular with young people will also be banned.

Though a prescription is needed to buy nicotine vapes in Australia, lax border enforcement and a thriving illegal market mean they are readily available in convenience stores and other outlets.

Major vape manufacturer Philip Morris PM.N welcomed the crackdown on such shops.

“Nicotine vaping products sold in corner stores have always been illegal,” a spokesperson for the company said.

“We have been urging enforcement against these illegal products for several years and hope this will now happen.”

Butler said vaping had become a recreational product in Australia, mostly sold to teenagers and young people, who are three times as likely to take up smoking.

“This is a product targeted at our kids, sold alongside lollies and chocolate bars,” Butler said. “Vaping has now become the number one behavioral issue in high schools. And it’s becoming widespread in primary schools as well.”

Canada has also explored ways to tamp down on underage vaping. While it’s illegal for teenagers to buy vapes, a recent study suggests over a quarter of Canadian high school students have vaped in the past month.

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Health Canada brought in nicotine restrictions for vaping products in 2021, and last year proposed regulations that could force vape product manufacturers to disclose information to the federal health agency on sales and ingredients.

Last month Quebec tabled new regulations that would ban the sale of flavoured vaping products as well as colourful packaging.

Isabelle Charest, the province’s minister responsible for sports and recreation, said at the time that over 90 per cent of vapes used by minors are sweetened or flavoured.

Similar bans are already in place in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, according to the Heart and Stroke Foundation.

Click to play video: 'Health Matters: Tips for stopping smoking or vaping'

Health Matters: Tips for stopping smoking or vaping

Doctors backed the vaping crackdown but urged the government to do more to limit the number of young people taking it up.

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“Nicotine vaping products are being sold featuring colorful flavors and we have even seen products featuring the same type of imagery as children’s breakfast cereal including cartoon characters,” said Nicole Higgins, president of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

About 22% of Australians aged 18-24 have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once, data last year showed.

The federal budget, due out next week, will include A$234 million ($155 million) for measures to protect against the harm caused by tobacco and vaping.

Australia has one of the toughest anti-smoking laws in the world.

In 2012, it became the first country to force cigarette producers to abandon distinct, colorful branding and sell their products in uniformly drab packets.

Tobacco firms were quick to switch to e-cigarettes that offer different flavors and created designs targeting a new generation of users.

Butler said the government had no plan to follow neighboring New Zealand in banning cigarette sales for future generations but said the tax on tobacco would be raised by 5% a year over the next three years in a bid to curb sales.

Some countries have tried to restrict vaping and some see it as a good way to get smokers to kick the habit.

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Britain said in April up to one million smokers would be encouraged to swap cigarettes for vapes, in what was a world first, offering financial incentives for pregnant women and providing e-cigarette starter kits to help.
— Reporting by Renju Jose in Sydney; Editing by Sonali Paul, Robert Birsel. With files from Global News and the Canadian Press.

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