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Smoking laws to be tightened as vaping probe begins

Selling smoking products in Queensland without a licence will be an offence attracting fines of up to $143,000 under a raft of proposed laws.

Health Minister Yvette D'Ath has tabled a bill to set up a licensing scheme for selling smoking products, ban the sale of illicit smoking products, expand smoke-free areas and restrict sales in venues.

Parliament launched a wide-ranging inquiry into e-cigarettes and vaping products earlier on Tuesday.

Ms D'Ath says proposed laws will crack down on businesses supplying and advertising smoking products, and people smoking near children.

She says a licensing scheme, which will align Queensland with most other states, will close the loopholes being used by "unscrupulous" retailers.

"The absence of a licensing scheme in Queensland has contributed to a proliferation of retail shops for illicit tobacco seeking to profit from the evasion of standard retail requirements," she told parliament.

"This growing trade in illicit tobacco is causing significant detriment to compliant businesses on public health."

Under the bill, it will be an offence to sell smoking products without a licence, or for wholesalers to sell them to unlicensed retailers, with a maximum penalty of up to $143,750.

People supplying illicit tobacco products may be fined up to $43,125, while those caught storing them at retail premises will face a penalty of up to $20,125.

Children will be banned from handling smoking products, but the fine will be slapped on the supplier rather than the young person, with parents and guardians exempt.

Smoking will be banned near organised children's outdoor activities such as sporting matches and in school car parks, and venues and outdoor markets will need to set up smoke-free buffer zones near existing smoking areas.

"The bill does not take away a person's choice to smoke," Ms D'Ath said.

"However, it does introduce restrictions to balance this fight with the public health imperative to protect the community at places where families gather."

Earlier on Tuesday, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk successfully moved a motion for a parliamentary committee to conduct a wide-ranging probe into vapes.

The inquiry will consider the prevalence of e-cigarette use, particularly among children, and the potential risks of chemicals including nicotine to individuals, the community and the health system.

It will probe programs in schools and other settings to discourage vaping and increase awareness of the "harmful effects of e-cigarette use with and without nicotine".

The committee will also explore the waste management and environmental impacts of vaping products, and look at inquiries and laws regulating e-cigarettes in other jurisdictions.

"I want all Queenslanders to understand what they are inhaling and the associated health risks associated with this relatively new but alarming trend," the premier said.

"I'm concerned that teachers are reporting to us that primary school children - I'll say that again: primary school children - are taking up vaping in their recess breaks.

"I'm concerned that teenagers are vaping in huge numbers and that they see it as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, when it in fact may be a stepping stone to smoking.

"I'm concerned that otherwise rational and educated adults are swapping cigarettes for vapes because they believe it is a healthier - even harmless - alternative when in all probability it is a dangerous alternative."