9 May 2022

ACT Government sets sights on underage e-cigarette and vape sales

| Lottie Twyford
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The ACT Government could soon have tougher protections to stop the sale of both e-cigarettes and vaping products to minors. Photo: File.Retailers of e-cigarettes and vaping products could soon be targeted by the ACT Government, which has proposed new legislation that would allow it to send minors in to attempt to purchase the items in a kind of “sting operation”.

Compliance checks can currently be conducted for tobacco products, but there isn’t any framework to help identify retailers selling ‘vapes’ to minors.

The change is part of a suite of reforms proposed by Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith to regulate the sales of these items, which are becoming increasingly popular with young people.

“Unfortunately, across Australia, there are increasing reports of illegal sales of e-cigarettes, including sales to minors,” she said.

“This bill will enable future compliance testing to include e-cigarettes and will therefore offer an additional tool in the [deterrence] of sales to minors.

“Adolescent brains are highly vulnerable to nicotine addiction and the use of smoking products can lead to a lifetime of dependency, as well as exposing the young user to the short and long-term health risks of vaping or smoking.”

Rachel Stephen-Smith in the legislative assembly

Minister for Health Rachel Stephen-Smith presented the proposed amendments to the Assembly earlier this week. Photo: Region Media.

While presenting the bill to the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday (4 May) Ms Stephen-Smith referenced a recent study by the Australian National University (ANU) which linked e-cigarettes to adverse health effects for youth.

The report found young nicotine e-cigarette users were susceptible to taking up smoking, addiction, poisoning, seizures, burns and lung injury.

But it also found there was limited evidence to prove that vapes or e-cigarettes provided users with any material help to quit smoking.

The report also highlighted harmful misinformation about vape use circulating amongst Australian youths, which suggested they were not harmful and were ‘just water vapour[s]'”.

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The proposed reforms follow a motion brought forward by Labor backbencher Dr Marisa Paterson last year that called on the government to review the Territory’s legislation to ensure current laws actively work towards minimising the harm caused by e-cigarettes and vaping.

Dr Paterson said last year she had been inundated by commentary from parents who had concerns about how easy it was for their children to purchase vapes, including at schools.

Ms Stephen-Smith’s proposed amendments to health legislation would also relax the rules, allowing pharmacies to obtain medicinal vaping products from their usual pharmacy supplier.

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The Health Minister said this approach would help community pharmacies better undertake their role as medicines suppliers.

“The model of care provided in community pharmacies is considered more likely to be conducive to smoking cessation, as there is an opportunity for counselling and support with trained pharmacists,” Ms Stephen-Smith told the Assembly.

“This is as opposed to online sales of nicotine vaping products, where there are limited regulatory controls.”

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