Australia to ban recreational vaping in ‘Big Tobacco’ crackdown

Australia will ban single-use disposable vapes, halt imports of non-prescription versions, and restrict how much nicotine e-cigarettes may contain.

In 2012, Australia became the first country to introduce 'plain packaging' laws for cigarettes [File: Loren Elliott/Reuters]

Australia has announced a sweeping crackdown on vaping, 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 announced on Tuesday it 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. In 2012, it became the first country to introduce “plain packaging” laws for cigarettes – a policy since copied by France, the United Kingdom 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 worldwide 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.”

Butler also announced Australia will hike taxes on tobacco sales by 5 percent each year over the next three years.

Heavy taxes on tobacco mean Australia already has some of the most expensive cigarettes in the world – with a pack of 25 selling for about 50 Australian dollars ($33).

Black market

Data from last year shows about 22 percent of Australians aged 18 to 24 have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once.

Sydney office worker Andrew Kohn, 31, said there was a need for stricter regulations.

“You go by a school during lunch hour now and it’s hard to see a kid who isn’t vaping,” he said.

Though a prescription is needed to buy nicotine vapes in Australia, a thriving illegal market means they are readily available.

Student Ruby Lake, in her early 20s, said she had seen some of her friends become addicted to e-cigarettes.

“They’re wanting to quit, and they can’t,” she said.

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

In April, the UK said 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.

Source: News Agencies