ACT News

ACT Government to release discussion paper on regulating e-cigarette use

People under the age of 18 could be banned from buying e-cigarettes, as the ACT Government considers ways to regulate their use and reduce consumer appeal.

The proposal is included in a new discussion paper on reducing the harms of personal vaporiser devices, set to be released by Chief Minister Katy Gallagher on Wednesday.

ACT Health will join other Australian jurisdictions in considering new restrictions on advertising of the products, banning them from use in smoke-free public areas and around children.

A community education campaign could also be launched.  

As states including Queensland look to introduce laws limiting the use of e-cigarettes in public, smoke-free areas and in cars with children, Ms Gallagher has called for feedback on their use in Canberra.

The sale of vaporisers containing nicotine is illegal in the ACT but devices without nicotine that make no claim about therapeutic benefits are not restricted. The paper outlines concerns that some are incorrectly labelled as nicotine-free, with one recent studying finding the poison present in 70 per cent of the products on sale in New South Wales. 

Traditionally battery operated, the devices are free of tobacco but heat liquid solutions containing glycol or glycerine, to produce a vapour that users inhale. Some are designed to look like cigarettes, cigars and pipes, and contain flavours of fruit, chocolate and alcohol. Some are made to resemble common items such as lipsticks or pens.

Retailers in Canberra do not require a licence to sell vaporisers and no age restrictions are in place. The devices are stocked in some service stations, adult shops and supermarkets, and are widely available online. 

The prestigious New England Journal of Medicine this year called the devices a potential "gateway drug" to smoking and their sale is expected to top $5 billion worldwide this year. 

At risk is the undermining of "decades of tobacco control" and health concerns considered in the paper include the re-normalisation of smoking in the community, the attraction to smoking of young people and a secondhand risk to non-users from vapour smoke. 

Vaporisers have also been found to cause fire when overheated. 

Ms Gallagher, who serves as Health Minister, said restricting the public use of e-cigarettes, as well as proposals to limit in-store advertising and vending machine sales, could be beneficial to the community.  

One option would result in only flavoured vaporisers being banned as part of tobacco sale legislation.

"Laws surrounding the use of cigarettes are strong in the ACT and we are seeing smoking rates drop as a result, however, e-cigarettes can be an attractive option that may encourage people to take up smoking, especially young people," Ms Gallagher said.

"The ACT Government is keen to ensure that non-smokers, particularly young people, are not encouraged to start using personal vaporisers."

Limiting their use could impact reformed smokers, however. The paper outlines how some advocates believe vaporisers can be effectively used to help smokers ditch the deadly habit, despite no approval from Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration.

A study released in July found of the 2.1 million adults in Britain who use personal vaporisers, 1.3 million continue to smoke.

The government will consider rules to allow only licensed tobacco retailers to sell personal vaporisers as well as changes to smoke-free laws for public places. 

"This is a valuable opportunity to gauge public opinion on e-cigarettes so I encourage all Canberrans with a view to make it known as part of this discussion paper," Ms Gallagher said.

Members of the public have until December 24 to respond to the discussion paper posted online by ACT Health and the ACT Government. The findings will be used to inform government policy in the future. 

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