Tobacco experts praise closing of vaping law loopholes – but better education still needed

Leading Australian tobacco control experts have praised plans to close vaping law loopholes in a new paper published this week.

Claire Halliday
Claire Halliday

Leading Australian tobacco control experts have praised the Federal Government’s plans to close vaping law loopholes in a new paper published this week – with calls for the proposed reforms to be introduced urgently to end the current epidemic of youth vaping.

Joining forces to call for the change in a commentary published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health are Associate Professor Becky Freeman from the University of Sydney, Professor Tanya Buchanan, CEO, Cancer Council Australia, and Anita Dessaix, Chair of Cancer Council’s Public Health Committee.

Federal Health Minister the Hon Mark Butler announced reforms to tighten vaping regulation in November 2023, while ending the importation of single-use disposable vapes came into effect from 1 January this year.

Further legislation planned for 2024 will aim to support and strengthen the enforcement of this change, including preventing the advertising, supply, or commercial possession of non-therapeutic and disposable vapes, as well as regulating nicotine levels and flavours in prescription vapes.

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Vaping epidemic impacting school communities

With schools across the country at the coalface of dealing with the rise in vaping among teenagers and primary-aged students, the expert authors of the academic commentary commend the proposed changes to vaping regulations, stating that “comprehensively addressing access and supply of vaping products is crucial if Australia hopes to roll back the alarming rise in young people vaping, who are vulnerable to lifelong nicotine addiction”.

But although lead author Associate Professor Becky Freeman says it’s been illegal to sell nicotine vapes since 2021, purchasing e-cigarettes remains common and alarmingly easy for young people.

“Currently, non-nicotine vapes are exempt from regulation that restricts vape access to those with a doctor’s prescription,” Associate Professor Freeman says.

“It’s a legal loophole that allows retailers such as tobacconists, convenience stores, chicken shops and petrol stations to get away with selling vapes under the guise that they don’t contain or aren’t labelled as containing nicotine. The alarming increase in youth vaping has gone hand-in-hand with the increasing retail availability of these products. The proposed reforms will be welcomed by schools, parents and teens struggling with the vaping epidemic.”

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Protecting young people from a predatory industry

“A cornerstone of the Government’s policy is ensuring that people who smoke who have decided they need vapes to help them quit smoking can still access them with the personalised advice of a health professional,” says co-author Anita Dessaix. “The new reforms strike the balance between protecting young people from a notoriously predatory industry and providing controlled access to a highly addictive and harmful product.”

Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, CEO of Public Health Association of Australia, says that the latest evidence-based commentary should send a strong message to politicians in all national, state and territory parliaments about the need to support a strengthened and enforced prescription pathway.

“We urgently need these reforms in place to protect the next generation from reckless retailers and the destructive nicotine industry. The proposed reforms are sound, necessary, and backed by evidence. We are calling on all members of Parliament to get the job done and support these legislativ”e changes, to close loopholes and protect the health of Australians, particularly young people.

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Claire Halliday has an extensive career as a full-time writer - across book publishing, copywriting, podcasting and feature journalism - for more than 25 years. She lives in Melbourne with children, two border collies and a grumpy Burmese cat. Contact: claire.halliday[at]