20 November 2022
By Remy Varga, The Australian
There are calls for similar regulation to plain packaging laws introduced on cigarettes nearly a decago ago to be applied to vapes as experts warn the rising use of e-cigarettes is a burgeoning public health crisis.
There are calls for similar regulation to plain packaging laws introduced on cigarettes to be applied to vapes as experts warn the rising use of e-cigarettes is a burgeoning public health crisis.
Former Liberal backbencher Dr Mal Washer, who was pivotal in convincing his party to support plain packaging legislation almost a decade ago, said vapes and e-cigarettes should only be dispensed by a doctor as an aid to quit smoking.
“There is a small spot where vaping can be of benefit but as I say I think the benefits now are far outweighed by their harm because people who have never taken up smoking are taking up vaping and getting caught by the nicotine addiction,” he said.
Vapes and e-cigarettes are often brightly coloured and sweetly flavoured like lollies and there has been a rising number of calls to state poisons information hotlines about children puffing on their parents vapes.
In 2011 then health minister Nicola Roxon introduced plain packaging laws into Australian parliament and from 2012 all cigarettes and tobacco had to be sold in Pantone shade 448C.
The Liberal Party was at first sceptical but Dr Washer, who was a general practitioner for 20-years before entering politics, supported the legislation from the beginning.
“The party was onboard and they voted for it eventually, I just made a firm stand,” said Dr Washer, who now chairs the Australian Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplantation Advisory Board.
“Because I know when [then opposition leader John Howard] was there he felt dubious about it because you know its legal, its markets.
“Well it‘s a health issue, don’t worry about semantics, we’re not lawyers we’ve got to think like damn doctors.
“Are we killing our population unless we start cutting this out?”
Under laws introduced by the former Coalition government in October 2021, vapes containing nicotine can only be purchased by people with a prescription while all vapes, regardless of whether they contain nicotine, can only be sold to those over the age of 18.
Despite the laws, vapes and e-cigarettes containing nicotine can be purchased at convenience stores and tobacconists around the country as a black market operates in plain sight of authorities.
Cancer Council Australia tobacco issues committee chair Libby Jardine said the increasing use of vapes and e-cigarettes was a public health crisis that was sabotaging tobacco control efforts.
Jardine said the introduction of plain packaging laws about a decade-ago was a demonstration in strong decisive leadership that resulted in a landmark public health win.
“We learnt from the plain packaging legislation that evidence and leadership can triumph over manipulative tobacco industry tactics,” she said.
“Governments have a similar opportunity to take action to protect the health of Australians.”
Jardine said all forms of promotions, advertising and sponsorship of e-cigarette products should be banned and said the federal government needed to crack down on the importation of vapes and prohibit their sale unless by a chemist.
She said state and territory governments needed to enforce current regulations on the sale of nicotine vapes.
A recent review by British policy institute Cochrane found rates of quitting smoking were higher when people used vapes and e-cigarettes than when they used nicotine replacement therapies such as patches.