Australia bans recreational use in crackdown on e-cigarette black market



The Australian government is banning e-cigarettes through a set of tough import and packaging controls to discourage smoking, particularly among teenagers, in its biggest smoking reform in more than a decade. .

Australian Health Minister Mark Butler said on Tuesday that vaping had become a major behavioral problem in secondary schools and a growing problem in primary schools, but acknowledged that the products were used for medicinal purposes in the right circumstances.

Vaping involves heating a nicotine-containing liquid in an electronic cigarette that the user vaporizes and inhales. It is widely seen as an alternative to cigarettes and a product to help smokers quit smoking, but instead teenagers and even young children around the world take up vaping as an addictive habit.

“Vaping has been marketed to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-time smokers quit,” Butler said.

“It’s not marketed as an entertainment product, especially not for our kids. But it turned out to be the biggest gap in Australian history.

Announcing the new rules, Butler said the importation of over-the-counter vapes would be banned and would have to contain packaging similar to pharmaceutical products marketed as products to help smokers quit.

Packages with bright colors and fun flavors that appeal to younger users will be restricted, and all disposable and single-use vapes will be banned, Butler added.

“It’s a product for our kids, sold alongside lollipops and chocolate bars,” Butler said.

“Just like with smoking, let’s be clear, Big Tobacco has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging, and flavored it to create a new generation of nicotine addicts. .”

Before the changes were announced on Tuesday, the only legal way to sell nicotine vapes in Australia was with a doctor’s prescription, but the products were still widely sold across the country.

According to Butler, a “black market” of shops and gas stations selling nicotine vapes to minors without any labeling or warnings has thrived in the absence of regulation and action.

“There’s no chewing gum taste anymore. No more pink unicorns. Safes will no longer be deliberately disguised as light fixtures so that children can hide them in pencil cases,” the health minister added.

About $20 million will be used to help Australians quit smoking and more than $41 million will be spent on a national youth awareness campaign, Butler said. Australia’s tobacco tax will also increase by 5% per year for the next three years from September 1.

Despite Australia having the lowest smoking rate among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member states, vapes are disproportionately used by young people in Australia.

According to Butler, one in six 14- to 17-year-olds has tried smoking, and one in four 18- to 24-year-olds has tried an alternative form of smoking. The prevalence of these products across the country was surprising – four in five teenagers said they could get a safe from their local retail store.

Researchers have identified a link between nicotine addiction in teenagers and children due to the increase in vaping habits. Adolescent vaping has been linked to psychological problems, headaches, stomach upsets and significant nicotine addiction.

Some claim that e-cigarettes are a good substitute for regular cigarettes, and in some countries they are even promoted as a smoking cessation tool. But the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says “e-cigarettes are not safe for youth, young adults and pregnant women, as well as adults who do not currently use tobacco products.” “.

Nicotine is highly addictive and can harm adolescent brain development, which continues into the early to mid-twenties, the CDC also warned.

Vaping is common in many US high schools, prompting the US Food and Drug Administration to address “epidemic” levels of use among minors in recent years. According to the 2022 National Youth Smoking Survey, an estimated 2.55 million middle and high school students in the United States use e-cigarettes.

According to a study published in the medical journal JAMA Network Open, teenage smokers are also starting to use e-cigarettes at a younger age.

Meanwhile, the UK is also struggling with high levels of vaping among young people, but is promoting it as an alternative to help long-term smokers.

In April, the UK government will encourage almost 1 million smokers to switch to vapes.

Under the scheme, one in five smokers will receive a ‘vape starter kit’ and behavioral support to help them quit, the UK Department of Health said. Financial incentives will also be offered to pregnant women to quit smoking, a world first, the government added.

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