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Vaping: Leaders urged to move away from New Zealand strategy

Key Point
  • Australia is working to combat what experts call the ‘vaping epidemic’.
  • Health experts warn Australian regulators not to follow the New Zealand model.
  • Here’s what Australian leaders are thinking as they sit together on Friday to crack down on the issue.
Australia is working to combat what experts call the ‘vaping epidemic’.
But health experts are urging Australian regulators not to follow the model in New Zealand, which has led to record low smoking rates, but the surge in e-cigarettes is a concern.

Health Minister Mark Butler said a booming black market for buying e-cigarettes, colorful packaging and hard-to-enforce soft regulations were driving the e-cigarette problem “out of control”.

In Australia, it’s only legal to buy e-cigarettes that require a prescription. This is a convention that young people easily ignore.
“Right now, school principals, elementary school principals and high school principals are saying e-cigarettes are the number one behavioral problem in schools, which is extraordinary,” he told ABC on Friday. .
On Friday, Mr. Butler met with state, territory and federal leaders to consider implementing better reforms to combat the illegal sale of e-cigarettes.
Security measures and border controls are on the agenda to be discussed to combat problems “that are prevalent throughout the community,” he said.

But as authorities consider ways to better regulate e-cigarette use, health experts urge New Zealand not to expect a model worth emulating.

How common is it to smoke e-cigarettes among young Australians?

Health experts are becoming increasingly concerned as research on e-cigarettes grows. There are clear links between e-cigarettes, addiction, and possible pathways to smoking.
A 2022 study led by Becky Freeman, associate professor of health at the University of Sydney, found that New South Wales teenagers between the ages of 14 and 17 find nicotine-containing e-cigarettes readily available at convenience stores, even though they are illegal.

The study, which recruited 700 participants in 2019, found that 1 in 5 quitters have tried an e-cigarette. By 2021, just under a third of people in NSW between the ages of 16 and 24 have used an e-cigarette at least once.

a A 2022 Australian National University study found that 5% of Australians between the ages of 18 and 24 smoke e-cigarettes as a regular habit.
And a report from the Victorian Cancer Council earlier this month found that 80% of Australians consider e-cigarettes highly addictive.
Janet Hook, a professor of health studies at the University of Otago, says the addictive consequences of e-cigarettes are staggering.
“Sometimes the cravings are so strong that young people talk about having trouble concentrating at school or school and having to go to the bathroom and smoke an e-cigarette,” she said.

“What seemed like a fun, casual experience quickly became something they had to organize their lives into, and it was a very unwelcome surprise for many of them.”

What are the current regulations regarding smoking e-cigarettes in Australia?

Associate Professor Freeman explained that on paper, Australia has some of the “most effective laws in the world”.
Australians need a prescription to legally obtain vapor containing nicotine. Only people who have tried and failed to quit smoking and have consulted a doctor should be able to receive e-cigarettes from a pharmacy.

“It sounds like it was really controlling access… unfortunately that’s not what’s happening,” she said.

Vapes come in many flavors and are often marketed to young children. credit: new york times

Convenience stores are only allowed to sell nicotine-free e-cigarettes, which Professor Freeman says is difficult to regulate.

“What we have here is a collection of retailers selling nicotine-containing products masquerading as non-nicotine products,” Freeman said.
Child-friendly packaging and product warning labels are also required, but have not been adopted due to the use of colorful, child-friendly flavors to attract a younger market.

“[Vapes are] Often marketed in pink unicorn and bubblegum flavors, these are marketed directly to children, not adults, and I am determined to eradicate them.

So what’s on the card?

A consultation paper prepared by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) last November raised several possible reform proposals.
A ban on all nicotine e-cigarette products is being considered, as well as granting import permits to health care workers wishing to obtain e-cigarettes through border controls.

Butler said a ban on imports was likely inevitable to tighten the distribution of teenage e-cigarette users.

man in suit

Health Minister Mark Butler has expressed concern over e-cigarette use among Australian youth. sauce: AAP / lucas cook

“At the end of the day, the Commonwealth will have to act including borders,” he said.

“I know my colleagues in the State and Territory are aware that we need to put police resources into this as well, as it’s just rampant across communities.”
Associate Professor Freeman called for a complete ban on non-nicotine products sold in convenience stores and lobbied the government to impose a blanket import ban.
That way, you can easily eliminate the possibility that nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are secretly sold to children.
“What we need to do in Australia is strengthen the laws and remove this ridiculous loophole we have and make sure young people don’t have easy access to these products.

“We’re going to go a really long way to prevent this e-cigarette epidemic that we have.”

Can I take lessons from New Zealand?

New Zealand has a more relaxed approach to e-cigarettes, a model Australia has been urged not to follow.
In New Zealand you don’t need a prescription to get nicotine e-cigarettes. Alternatively, those over the age of 18 can purchase at their local convenience store.

Corner stores and gas stations can offer a limited selection of flavors and specialties. Stores are allowed to sell a wider range.

According to the latest data from the New Zealand Ministry of Health, 8.3% of New Zealand adults use vaping, which is higher than the annual smoking rate of 8%.
Some health officials have praised the dramatic decline in smoking in New Zealand. others say the easy switch to e-cigarettes is not to be admired.
“No one can look at these numbers and say that this is a successful strategy,” Professor Hook said.
“I am concerned that there are people in Australia who look at us and say, ‘Oh, why don’t we do what they are doing?
Associate Professor Freeman said Australia should not look across the Tasman River for how to keep teenagers out of harm’s way.
“What we can learn from New Zealand’s experience is that making these products more readily available is not the solution,” said Freeman.

“This is not a model that we want to import.

https://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/as-australia-faces-a-vaping-epidemic-this-is-the-warning-from-experts/aw5gwrsxa Vaping: Leaders urged to move away from New Zealand strategy

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