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Australia to ban recreational vaping and restrict e-cigarette sales to pharmacies

Australia says vapes will only be sold in pharmacies and require "pharmaceutical-type" packaging.
Australia says vapes will only be sold in pharmacies and require "pharmaceutical-type" packaging. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Euronews with AP
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Australia plans to ban non-prescription vaping and wants e-cigarette sales to be confined to helping tobacco smokers quit.

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Australia has announced tough new rules on vaping and smoking that will see the sale of e-cigarettes restricted to pharmacies and to people with a prescription.

Recreational vaping will be banned as the government seeks to prevent the next generation from becoming addicted to nicotine, the country's health minister Mark Butler said on Tuesday.

The tobacco tax will also be raised by 5 per cent a year starting in September, while the importation and packaging of e-cigarettes will be strictly regulated.

"Vapes contain more than 200 chemicals that do not belong in the lungs. Some of the same chemicals you will find in nail polish remover and weed killer," Butler said.

The government will work with the states and territories to shut down the sale of vapes in retail and convenience stores while making it easier to get a prescription for therapeutic use.

Under the new rules, vapes will only be sold in pharmacies and require "pharmaceutical-type" packaging. 

Nicotine vapes already require a prescription in Australia, but a black market for the products is thriving, with all kinds of vapes - including disposable ones - sold in convenience stores.

To tackle the growing black market, the government will increase the product standards for vapes, including by restricting flavours and colours, and will require a reduction in the maximum allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes. 

Single-use vapes, which are popular with young people, will also be banned.

"This is a product targeted at our kids," Butler said. "Vaping has become the No. 1 behavioural issue in high schools, and it’s becoming widespread in primary schools. This must end".

Youngsters 'hooked on vapes'

Steve Robson, president of the Australian Medical Association, the nation’s leading doctors group, backed the move. 

"We know the new young generation of Australians are being hooked on vapes and this is a great initiative," he said.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation CEO Erin Lalor said most people vaping in Australia were using unregulated products, with no idea what was in them.

"Some people who vape, including young people, may be unknowingly consuming nicotine and have formed a dependence," she said.

The Australian government also announced extra funding for public health campaigns to discourage people from taking up vaping and support those who have already quit.

Australia has some of the world's toughest anti-smoking laws. In 2012, it became the first country to force cigarette makers to sell their tobacco products in plain packaging.

It also has one of the lowest smoking rates among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries, with 11.2 per cent of Australians 15 and over smoking in 2019, according to government statistics.

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