What Does the New Vaping Ban Mean for You?
By James Weatherman, graphic by Will Novak.
On May 2nd, Mark Butler – the Australian Minister for Health and Aged Care – announced an unprecedented federal government crackdown on vaping. This news comes amidst record high nicotine usage, with people in Australia under the age of 25 being “three times as likely to pick up smoking” relative to the rest of the population, according to Mark Butler.
The crackdown on vaping and nicotine products more broadly will be complemented with $737m from the 2023-24 Budget. Further details from the official statement can be found here.
The ban will impact the importation of vaping products, with all single-use disposable vapes to be banned. The Minister said the target of these reforms are the importers and the vendors, not consumers.
“The laws focus on vendors, not on people, not on customers, certainly not on kids, and that’s what we want to see enforced,” he said. Observer reached out to various ANU students to determine how they feel about the ban.
The ANU’s Smoke-Free Campus Policy “prohibits the use of all smoking products (tobacco product, herbal product, personal vaporiser or personal vaporiser product), anywhere, on all of the University’s campuses, including buildings, properties, grounds, and workplaces.” There are also no ANU Designated Outdoor Smoking Areas (DOSA), as they were phased out in July 2020.
Despite this, one student regarded that, much like many areas with a high concentration of young adults, ANU has a “culture of vaping”.
When asked about their thoughts on the ban, this same student, who believes that “vaping is better for you than smoking but only marginally,” explained that they agreed with the ban.
The student added that “at one point in time doctors thought cigarettes were not dangerous to smoke… now we have seen the long term effects of smoking and the damage it can cause.”
“The problem with vaping is that we haven’t seen the long term effects yet, but you can pretty much guarantee that they’re not going to be positive.”
They think “it’s fun to vape socially, but … think it is fairly unhealthy to be vaping daily.”
Another student “who gave up vaping over a year ago,” regarded the ban as “an overreaction from the government.” Their justification for this was that by “outright banning vapes, except for prescription water flavoured vapes, consumers are left with cigarettes as an easily accessible alternative.”
A feature of the ban will include an increase on the tobacco tax “by 5 per cent per year for 3 years in addition to normal indexation”.
As an alternative solution, this same student suggested that “it’s way more efficient for a government to provide support for those who want support over their health outcomes rather than forcing an outcome on the population.”
The role of a black market forming to support the supply of vapes was also acknowledged in the statement.
To tackle this the government will: “stop the import of non-prescription vapes; increase the minimum quality standards for vapes including by restricting flavours, colours, and other ingredients; require pharmaceutical-like packaging; reduce the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes; and ban all single use, disposable vapes.”
When asked about their thoughts on the government’s approach to restricting the black market through targeting imports, one student said that “people will always find a way to get their fruity nicotine in some form… I don’t really think it will be that effective.”
“People still manage to get all types of drugs through imports and I’m sure that vapes will be no different.”
The issue at hand is whether the vaping ban will effectively restrict students’ and the broader population’s access to vapes, or if it will instead incentivise a transition to tobacco. The ban comes after a major peer-reviewed study led by the ANU, which confirmed many of the risks posed by vaping to health.
Risks identified in the review included poisoning, especially in small children, seizures and loss of consciousness caused by nicotine overdose, headache, cough, throat irritation, and burns and injuries, largely caused by exploding batteries.
The reforms will be implemented with urgency, however the Commonwealth, states and territories are still working on the precise terms of the regulations. New legislation will be required, and a transition period may also be needed.
For other inquiries by Observer into the 2023-24 Budget, see here.
Graphics by Will Novak
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