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e-Cigarette Crackdown Planned in Australia

FILE - In this April 23, 2014, file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago.
FILE - In this April 23, 2014, file photo, a man smokes an electronic cigarette in Chicago.

Disposable vapes used by more than a million Australians will be banned under sweeping new reforms.

The government wants to end the sale of e-cigarettes in shops in the most significant tobacco and vaping control measures in a decade. Under new rules announced Tuesday, vapes will only be sold in Australian pharmacies and in "pharmaceutical-like" packaging.

Australia has some of the world’s lowest rates of smoking because of plain package laws introduced over a decade ago, high taxes and education campaigns.

But there are growing concerns about e-cigarettes.

The government in Canberra has accused the tobacco industry of using vaping to try to create a “new generation of nicotine addicts.”

Nicotine e-cigarettes can only be sold in Australia with a prescription, but there is a thriving black market.

The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, describes e-cigarettes as a “public health menace”.

He is proposing new controls that seek to drastically limit the sale of vapes in stores, while restricting their flavors and colors. All imported non-prescription and single-use, disposable vapes would also be banned.

“Vaping was sold to governments and to communities all around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit. It was not sold as a recreational product and, in particular, not one for our kids,” Butler told the National Press Club in Canberra Tuesday. “But that is what is has become — the biggest loophole, I think, in Australian healthcare history.”

However, the government plans to make it easier for Australians to get e-cigarettes for “legitimate" therapeutic purposes, including quitting smoking.

Vaping is widely seen as a safer alternative to smoking tobacco and a product to help smokers quit. It involves heating a liquid in an e-cigarette and turning it into a vapor that users inhale.

There has been no response, so far, to Australia’s proposed vaping reforms from the tobacco industry.

British American Tobacco says on its website that its “vapor products play a major role in providing smokers with a reduced risk alternative to cigarettes”.

But the company acknowledges that “these products are not risk free and are addictive” adding that it is “fully committed to working in a regulated market”.

In 2022, more than 2.5 million school students in the United States used e-cigarettes, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, despite the legal age for using such products being 21.

Data from England’s National Health Service for 2021 showed that reported consumption of e-cigarettes among 11 to 15-year-olds had risen to 9% - up from 6% in the previous year. Only adults aged over 18 can legally buy vapes or e-cigarettes in the United Kingdom.