Why Australia Should Rethink its Vaping Laws

Why Australia Should Rethink its Vaping Laws

The reason why Australia is lagging in the decline of smoking?

10 January 2024 | Hannah Rubery

Why Australia Should Rethink its Vaping Laws (Image)

Around the globe, the vaping landscape is a constantly shifting tapestry of regulatory changes, adaption and innovation. While many nations are progressively adapting their policies to recognise vaping as a potentially less harmful alternative to traditional tobacco products, one country seems to be pushing against the tide. The land down under, Australia, instead appears to be driving towards more stringent regulations.

This rigid stance not only impacts industry growth but more importantly, hampers the ability of smokers to access potentially less harmful alternatives. The question remains - is this the right approach? Let's delve into the specifics of Australia's changing vaping laws and explore their implications in comparison with their neighbour, New Zealand.

The Recent Updates & Upcoming Changes for Australia

From a legal standpoint, the vaping landscape in Australia has taken a significant turn. The year 2024 has seen the implementation of restrictive laws that have begun to impact the industry and individuals alike.

• Importation ban on disposables: As of now, there's a total ban on the importation of disposable vapes, significantly limiting the available alternatives for smokers. This ban effectively bars individuals from accessing a wide range of devices that could potentially help them transition from smoking.
• Restrictions on refillable vapes: Come March, the importation of refillable vapes will also face the brunt of the law. Unless importers hold a license and permit, the importation of refillable vapes will be restricted. The sale of these devices will be limited to licensed pharmacies only.
• Upcoming retail ban: Later this year, Australia plans to implement a retail ban on all vaping products. This holistic ban will further impact access for smokers seeking less harmful alternatives.
• Purchase only from pharmacies: reluctance among doctors: They have also led to an unforeseen issue. Doctors, who are now placed as gatekeepers in this process, have shown a reluctance to prescribe vapes. This adds additional barriers for smokers looking to switch.

These changes not only make it more difficult for current smokers to transition to less harmful alternatives but also stifle the growth of a value-adding industry. In comparison, Australia's neighbour, New Zealand has had a much different approach.

Comparing to New Zealand

Unlike Australia, New Zealand has taken a more balanced approach to vaping regulations, recognising the potential benefits of vaping as a smoking cessation tool while still maintaining reasonable safeguards. Here's the rundown on the recent changes in New Zealand's vaping laws:

• Distance from schools: In a move to protect youth from potential exposure to vaping, New Zealand has mandated that new vape stores must be located at least 300 meters away from schools. This not only discourages underage vaping but also ensures these products are accessible to adults who need them.
• Generic flavour descriptions: With a clear focus on curbing the appeal of vaping to the youth, New Zealand now requires vape products to only have generic flavour descriptions.
• Strength limit for disposables: New Zealand has set a maximum strength of 20mg for disposable vapes. This limit strikes a balance between providing enough nicotine to meet the needs of smokers transitioning away from traditional cigarettes, while preventing excessive consumption.
• Removable batteries and child-safety mechanisms: To enhance safety, all vape products in New Zealand must now feature removable batteries and child-safety mechanisms. These changes reflect a commitment to ensuring the safe use of these devices, protecting children from unintended exposure, and facilitating proper device maintenance.

These regulations show a careful consideration of public health and safety while still acknowledging the potential of vaping as a less harmful alternative for smokers.

The Impact on Smoking Rates in Australia and New Zealand

An interesting divergence between the two nations becomes apparent when we examine the rates of smoking cessation. Over the past five years, New Zealand's progressive approach to vaping has corresponded with a notable decline in smoking rates. A whopping 45% reduction in smokers has been observed, demonstrating the potential effectiveness of vaping as a tool for combating tobacco use.

On the other hand, Australia's restrictive stance on vaping seems to have hindered progress in reducing smoking rates. Over the same five-year period, Australia has seen a mere 5% decline in the number of smokers. This stark contrast suggests that Australia's stringent vaping laws may be inadvertently preventing smokers from accessing healthier alternatives, thereby impeding efforts to reduce tobacco use.

This comparison illustrates a fundamental difference in policy outcomes. New Zealand's balanced approach has fostered a decline in smoking rates, potentially saving lives and reducing healthcare costs associated with tobacco use. In contrast, Australia's restrictive laws seem to have had a less positive impact on smoking cessation. This disparity provides compelling evidence that Australia should rethink its vaping laws, potentially emulating New Zealand's progressive approach to maximise public health benefits.

Australia's Vaping Future in 2024: A Conclusion

As we forge ahead into 2024, the future of vaping in Australia seems to be at a crossroads. The restrictive laws currently in place are putting a strain on consumers and the industry alike, potentially hindering smokers from transitioning to healthier alternatives. While the measures aim to protect public health, their impact on smoking cessation rates compared to New Zealand's more balanced approach is worth noting.

Australia's vaping laws need a thoughtful re-evaluation. Following the path of New Zealand by implementing balanced regulations could provide smokers with the needed access to less harmful alternatives while maintaining public health safeguards. This could subsequently lead to a substantial decline in smoking rates, achieving the ultimate goal of enhancing public health.