Australia unveils plan to crack down on vaping amid ‘new generation of nicotine dependancy’

Australia unveils plan to crack down on vaping amid ‘new generation of nicotine dependancy’

Australia will ban the import of disposable single-use vapes in the first stage of a major crackdown on smoking devices, amid concern over rising rates of nicotine addiction among young people/

The ban on the import of single-use vapes will begin on 1 January 2024 and will be followed by a ban on the personal importation of all vapes, health minister Mark Butler has announced.

The import of refillable non-therapeutic vapes will be banned from March, he said, adding that only doctors and nurses would be authorised to prescribe therapeutic vapes.

Vaping was introduced as an alternative to smoking tobacco but it has created a "new generation of nicotine dependency in our community", the health minister added.

Despite a 2021 ban on the purchase or import of nicotine vapes without a prescription from a doctor, vaping rates have soared in the country. About one in seven 14 to 17-year-olds and one in five 18 to 24-year-olds were using vapes, according to the government's data from the first quarter of 2023.

The government will also introduce legislation in 2024 to prevent domestic manufacture, advertisement, supply and commercial possession of non-therapeutic and disposable vapes in an effort to control the devices across all levels of the supply chain, the health ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

“All Australian governments are committed to working together to stop the disturbing growth in vaping among our young people,” the health minister said.

The Anthony Albanese government cited "strong and consistent evidence" to suggest that young Australians who vape were around three times more likely to take up tobacco in the future.

Ambitious plans to impose a ban on disposable vapes, while also increasing the taxation on tobacco, were first announced in May, though no timeline for the measures was provided then.

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

"It was not sold as a recreational product – especially not one targeted to our kids, but that is what it has become."

He said vaping was a "gateway to smoking" and smoking remained one of the leading preventable causes of death and disease in the country, responsible for almost 20,000 Australian deaths each year.

The government will allot an additional $25m to the Australian Border Force and $56.9m to the Therapeutic Goods Administration over two years to eliminate the rampant vaping black market.

The Australian Medical Association hailed the import ban. "Australia has been a world leader in reducing smoking rates and the subsequent health harms, so the government's decisive action to stop vaping in its tracks and prevent further harm is very welcome," said Steve Robson, president of the association.