Australia will bar imports of single-use e-cigarettes starting next year, cracking down on the nicotine products that are popular with youth.
The ban will come into effect on January 1, Australia’s government announced on Tuesday, adding that it will also introduce legislation in 2024 to ban the manufacture, advertising or supply of disposable vapes.
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Australian health officials welcomed the curb on vapes, which they said had been pitched as a tool to help long-term smokers quit but evolved into a dangerous “recreational product”.
“It was not sold as a recreational product, especially not one targeted to our kids, but that is what it has become,” Health Minister Mark Butler said.
“The great majority of vapes contain nicotine, and children are becoming addicted.”
The Australian Medical Association hailed the government’s “decisive action to stop vaping in its tracks”.
About one in seven children aged 14-17 uses vapes, Australia’s government said in a statement.
The government also said there was “consistent evidence” that young Australians who vape are about three times more likely to take up tobacco smoking.
‘Gateway’ to tobacco smoking
Kim Caudwell, a senior lecturer in psychology at Australia’s Charles Darwin University, warned vaping can serve as a “dangerous gateway” to tobacco smoking for some youth.
“You can understand how at the population level, increased vaping and a resurgence of tobacco use will impact population health in the future,” Caudwell said.
Despite the new restrictions, Australia’s government said it would introduce a scheme to enable doctors and nurses to prescribe vapes “where clinically appropriate” from January 1.
Australia has a long record of fighting smoking. In 2012, it became the first country to introduce “plain packaging” laws for cigarettes – a policy since copied by France, Britain and others.
High taxes have pushed up the price of a packet to about 50 Australian dollars (US$33).
Neighbouring New Zealand until recently stood alongside Australia at the forefront of the battle.
But its new conservative coalition government, which took power this week, has now promised to scrap a so-called “generational smoking ban” that would have stopped sales of tobacco to anyone born after 2008.