National Party Proposes New Regulations for Nicotine Vapes in Australia
The National Party of Australia has put forward a proposal to ease regulations on nicotine vapes in the country. The party argues that loosening the rules around these products could help adults quit smoking, while simultaneously tightening restrictions around young people’s access to highly addictive nicotine vapes.
This stance is at odds with the current health approach in Australia, where access to nicotine vapes is only permitted with a prescription. The Nationals’ proposal would abandon the prescription-only model in favor of a regulated system that allows nicotine vapes to be purchased similarly to cigarettes. Retailers would require a license to sell these products, and significant penalties would be imposed for selling them to minors.
Under the proposed changes, some flavors would be banned, and health warnings would be added to labels. The approach is similar to that taken in New Zealand, where nicotine vapes are far more widely available legally than in Australia.
The Nationals’ leader, David Littleproud, asserts that the current rules are failing to prevent young people from becoming addicted to vaping. “We’ve given it a go and with genuine intent of trying to solve this problem, it hasn’t worked,” he said. “What we want to do is be constructive, but be agile enough to understand we need better regulation.”
Companies like British American Tobacco, which is a major producer of e-cigarettes, have similarly pushed to regulate nicotine vapes like cigarettes, arguing that it is the best way to tackle the black market.
The proposed changes mark a significant shift in direction from Australia’s current approach to vaping. The federal government has sought to tightly regulate nicotine vapes, making them available only through a prescription issued solely for the purpose of quitting smoking. Despite these rules, vapes containing nicotine are widely available illegally, and they are widely used by people under 18 years of age.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has been working on possible changes to laws around vapes, with an eye to tightening rules on imports. Health Minister Mark Butler has indicated that he intends to “come down hard” on the vaping industry, including a stronger presence on the borders and greater police action.
However, the Nationals’ proposal has faced criticism from health groups such as the Cancer Council. These groups have urged the government to toughen existing laws and strengthen enforcement, including banning the sale of non-nicotine vapes (which have often been found to contain nicotine).
The Health Minister accused the Nationals of having a “blatant conflict of interest” when it came to the issue, as their party was the only major one that still received donations from tobacco companies. He emphasized that “health ministers are determined to take strong action about the explosion of illegal vaping in Australia.”
Littleproud countered that simplifying the regulations around vapes is the best way to prevent young people from using them. “The regulation around prescription hasn’t worked,” he said. “And if you want to police this, the best way to police this is to simplify the regulations to align it with other regulations like cigarettes, around point of sale, around packaging, flavors, and making sure that it’s only people over 18 that can acquire these things.”
Under the Nationals’ proposal, any revenue generated through taxes on vapes would be directed towards regional healthcare. This proposal is likely to be a contentious issue in Australian politics and public health discourse in the coming months.
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