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Australia announces major crackdown on vaping

May 2, 2023

Vape atomisers stand in a display cabinet at a vape store, in Melbourne, Australia, May 2, 2023. REUTERS/Sandra Sanders

Australia announced a sweeping crackdown on vaping Tuesday, accusing tobacco companies of hooking the next “generation of nicotine addicts” by deliberately targeting teenagers.

Billed as the country’s largest anti-smoking reforms in a decade, Australia will ban single-use disposable vapes, halt imports of non-prescription versions, and restrict how much nicotine e-cigarettes may contain.

Australia has long been at the vanguard of attempts to stamp out smoking, and in 2012 became the first country to introduce “plain packaging” laws for cigarettes – a policy since copied by Britain, France and others.

But in recent years, Australia has struggled to contain the explosion in recreational vaping, particularly among teenagers.

“Vaping has become the number one behavioural issue in high schools. And it’s becoming widespread in primary schools,” Health Minister Mark Butler said.

“Just like they did with smoking, Big Tobacco has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

People will still be allowed to use vapes, with a prescription, as a tool to help them quit cigarettes.

“Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit,” Butler said.

“It was not sold as a recreational product – especially not one for our kids.”

A man is seen vaping in Sydney, Australia. (Mark Evans/Getty Images/File Photo)

In theory, it is already illegal to buy nicotine e-cigarettes in Australia without a prescription.

But in practice, they are widely available in small convenience stores – a flourishing black market the government has struggled to contain.

Australia has one of the lowest daily smoking rates in the world, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, but has seen an increase in the number of under-25s taking up cigarettes.

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

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

Heavy taxes on tobacco mean Australia already has some of the most expensive cigarettes in the world – with a pack of 25 selling for around Aus$50 (£27).

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

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.

(AFP, Reuters)