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Australian Health Ministers announce unanimous support for Vaping Products Bill

Australian health ministers stand in support of a bill that will see the ban on domestic manufacture and supply, distribution, advertisement, and commercial possession of non-therapeutic vapes.

“If vapes are therapeutic goods then it is entirely appropriate that Australia should regulate them as therapeutic goods, instead of allowing them to be sold alongside chocolate bars in convenience stores, often down the road from schools,” their joint statement said.

According to the country’s health ministers, their unanimous support of the Vaping Products Bill, which is currently before the Senate, shows that they are “not going to stand by and let our kids get hooked on nicotine.”

The joint statement advised that help is available for anyone trying to quit smoking or vaping and encouraged people to talk to their GPs about their options to stop nicotine dependence.

“A range of supports are available nationally to help people quit smoking and the use of vapes, including programs run through state and territory health services,” they said.

Why is the Vaping Products Bill important?

The bill will ban all single-use and non-therapeutic vapes, while ensuring that motivated smokers have access to therapeutic vapes available from pharmacies with a prescription.

It will also target commercial actors, stores and groups focused on making a profit from the sales of non-therapeutic vapes, rather than penalise individuals who already possess them.

“It’s now clear vapes are being used to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction,” according to the joint statement of the nine health ministers, “and it’s working.”

The Australian Health Ministers mention that about one in 6 high school students and one in 4 young Australians aged between 18 and 24 consume vapes sold outside of pharmacies – products available from groceries, corner shops, and even tobacconists – peddled by profit-oriented criminal groups.

The joint statement mentions that vapes were advertised as a reliable tool to help anyone quit smoking and should remain so.

“Vapes were sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic good, a product that could help hardened smokers kick the habit. Not a recreational product – especially not one targeted at kids.”

According to the CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Terry Smith, this statement should be “noted by the Senate” due to “the fact that all Australian states and territories are on board with this legislation.”

He mentioned that the bill in question has struck the balance between “helping existing smokers quit” by giving them a clear pathway for using vapes while “stopping kids from getting addicted to this seriously health-threatening product.”

What is next with the Vaping Products Bill?

The Liberal party has yet to state its position on the bill. However, the National party has raised concerns that a prescription-only model could lead to the formation of a bigger illegal market.

Meanwhile, the Greens have mentioned they have concerns about certain aspects of the Bill, but are on board when it comes to harm minimisation.

Public submissions to the Senate’s Inquiry into the Bill closed on 12 April and public hearings are set to commence in early May, with the Senate’s final report on the Bill currently due on 12 May 2024.

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