Australian government to ban recreational vaping in smoking crackdown

The country's tobacco tax will be increased by billions of dollars over the next four years. Credit: PA

Australia's government is working to ban recreational vaping.

The country's tobacco tax will be increased by billions of dollars over the next four years as they crack down on smoking and vaping, and seek to prevent the next generation from becoming addicted to nicotine, Health Minister Mark Butler said on Tuesday.

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

The tobacco tax will be raised by 5% a year starting from September, Butler said — a total increase of 3.3 billion Australian dollars (around £1.77 billion) over four years.

This follows an AU$234-million (£125 million) boost for tougher regulation of e-cigarettes, including new controls on their importation and packaging.

To tackle the growing black market, the government will increase the product standards for vapes, which will include restricting flavours and colours.

It will require pharmaceutical-like packaging, a reduction in the maximum allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes and a ban on single-use vapes.

Butler cited children under four reported to Victoria state’s poisons hotline after they used a vape to give an idea of the scale of the public health issue.

“This is a product targeted at our kids,” Butler said. “Vaping has become the number one behavioral issue in high schools, and it’s becoming widespread in primary schools."

"This must end."

Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, with 11.2% of Australians 15 and over smoking in 2019, according to government statistics.

Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates among the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries, according to stats. Credit: The Isle of Man Government

Elsewhere, neighbouring country New Zealand has given a lifetime ban to young people from buying cigarettes after a new law was passed to phase out tobacco smoking.

The law states tobacco can't ever be sold to anybody born on or after January 1, 2009.

It means the minimum age for buying cigarettes will keep going up - in theory, this means somebody trying to buy a pack of cigarettes 50 years from now would need ID to show they were at least 63 years old.

But health authorities hope smoking will fade away well before then and have set the goal of making New Zealand smoke-free by 2025.

What regulations are in place for vaping in the UK?

You must be 18 or over to purchase e-cigarettes or e-liquids in the UK, and there are no laws that prevent people of any age from vaping in public areas.

In early April, it was announced ministers would pledge a crackdown on the illegal sale of e-cigarettes to under-18s with an “illicit vapes enforcement squad”.

The taskforce would conduct “test purchasing” at shops and share “intelligence” across regional networks and local authorities, according to the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC).

Vaping is on the rise in young people across the UK. Credit: PA

Underage vaping is on the rise, according to NHS figures.

The number of 11 to 17-year-olds to try e-cigarettes stood at 6% in 2018, rising to 9% in 2021.

Over half of those (57%) said they'd bought the vapes themselves from shops.

The new enforcement squad - backed by £3 million in government funding - would also have the power to remove illegal products from shops and at borders.

England’s Chief Medical Officer Chris Whitty told a House of Commons committee that vape marketing to children holds “unknown consequences for developing minds” and branded such targeting “an appalling situation.”

But vape starter kits will be offered to almost one in five of all smokers in England under a push to make the nation “smoke free”, ministers announced last month.

Meanwhile, the devolved Scottish government has already said it will consider a ban on disposable vapes.

First Minister of Scotland Humza Yousaf said in January a government review would include “consideration of a potential ban.”

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