Billed as one of the biggest anti-tobacco reforms in a decade, Australia will ban single-use disposable vapers, curb the import of such devices without a prescription and restrict the amount of nicotine e-cigarettes can contain.
Australia has been at the forefront of tobacco eradication efforts, and in 2012 was the first country to introduce “plain packaging” legislation for cigarettes, which has been copied by the UK, France and other countries.
With heavy tobacco sales taxes, cigarette prices in Australia are among the most expensive in the world, with a $25 pack costing around $33.
It has one of the lowest smoking rates in the world, according to the Australian Institute of Health and Wellbeing, but has seen an increase in people starting to smoke under the age of 25.
In recent years, Australia has struggled to contain the explosion of recreational vaping, particularly among teenagers.
Health Minister Mark Butler said in a speech, “Vaping has become the number one behavioral issue in schools. And it is spreading to primary schools.”
“Just as it happened with tobacco, the tobacco industry has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in fancy packaging and added flavoring to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”
Vapors will still be available for purchase, but with a prescription, as a smoking cessation tool.
The government’s reforms have been praised by the Australian Medical Association and the Australian Cancer Council.
Buying e-cigarettes without a prescription is theoretically prohibited in Australia, but in practice they are readily affordable in small shops across the country.
A 2022 study from the Australian National University found that teenagers who smoked were three times more likely to start smoking.
“Nicotine use in children and adolescents can lead to lifelong addiction, as well as concentration and learning difficulties,” the researchers said.
Cancer Council chief Tanya Buchanan said Australia is facing a “vaping epidemic” and there is a small window of opportunity to control it.
He commented that e-cigarettes are unsafe and threaten “Australia’s gains in reducing smoking rates”.