Transcript: AMA (WA) President gives support to a crackdown on vapes | AMA (WA)

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Transcript: AMA (WA) President gives support to a crackdown on vapes

Tuesday May 2, 2023

As reported in today’s The West Australian:

Plain packaging of e-cigarettes and a ban on flavours are set to be introduced as part of a $234 million crackdown on vapes.

The Federal Government is trying to make the potentially lethal products less attractive to users especially young adults and children. One in six teenagers aged 14-17 has used vapes in Australia, compared with one in four in the 18-24 age group.

By contrast, only one in 70 people aged in their 50s has tried the product.

Health Minister Mark Butler will on Tuesday unveil the Commonwealth’s plan for stronger regulation and law enforcement of e-cigarettes, including new controls on their importation, contents and packaging.

The Government will work with States and Territories to shut down the growing black market in illegal vaping.

AMA (WA) President Dr Mark Duncan-Smith spoke to the media this afternoon in support of the reported initiatives.

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith: Vaping is the new nicotine business delivery model of big tobacco and it is absolutely necessary that we protect our children from nicotine addiction and the health dangers of vaping. AMA has lobbied for changes in the regulation for vaping and welcomes these changes. Of non-nicotine vapes, two-thirds of these, when tested, actually contain nicotine. Vapes also contain poisonous chemicals and known carcinogens. If you’re a parent out there with a high school child and you don’t think that your child has tried vapes, there’s a one in seven chance that they have actually tried vaping. Non-smokers who vape are three times more likely to take up cigarettes. It is absolutely essential that we protect our children from nicotine addiction and the dangers of vapes. AMA recognises the strength and foresight of Health Minister Mark Butler in making these changes.

Reporter: What’s falling through the gaps in WA as far as enforcement goes?

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith: As far as enforcement goes, what we need to do is, and this is a a combined state and federal-type action, what we need to do is we need to crack down on the importation through loopholes of nicotine-containing liquids. There are also problems with these sorts of products getting into our State, in that they’re not approved and they’re not in childproof containers. The problem there is that we’ve already had several young children in Australia die from ingesting these nicotine- containing liquids and effectively dying of acute nicotine toxicity or poisoning.

Reporter: Have you seen any evidence that makes you confident that the current sort of regulations under, I think it was the poisons and controls act (Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act), anything that makes you confident that those regulations are having any sort of deterrent effect? Because it seems like a lot of these retailers just are keeping on doing what they’re doing despite the threat of a $45,000 fine.

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith: What I’m hoping to see is a raft of changes in the new regulations and the new laws, including a public health campaign by the federal and possibly state governments to educate people about the dangers of vaping, not just from nicotine addiction but actually the carcinogens and the poisons that are in vapes. This is a potential health crisis that is very, very similar to the same story of what we saw decades ago with cigarettes.

With respect to specific changes, I think it’s a case that we need to have better enforcement, we need to have better regulation and we need to have more fines. But it also needs to be a whole-of-community approach for this. It needs to be about the education of children, parents. Teachers shouldn’t be the police officers in this, but they should play a role in the continuing health of their students. But we also need, which is happening with both the state and federal governments, to step up with actual enforcement and actually shut down these loopholes so that we can protect our children.

Reporter: Is there any element where you think that it’s sort of something that’s almost snuck up on authorities over the last few years while they were perhaps more focused on COVID-19 and other things, and if they don’t act now, it’ll be too late? It snuck through when COVID was happening?

Dr Mark Duncan-Smith: I think that the vaping has actually been marketed as a a therapeutic tool, but what it’s actually shifted into now is actually a recreational habit. Unfortunately, the vaping suppliers have clearly had a marketing policy to target children with their brightly coloured packets, their bubble gum. Flavouring, and this has been a deliberate ploy by them to effectively get young people hooked on vaping and it’s essentially nicotine. This is a a process that I think has been a deliberate marketing strategy. I think it has snuck up on the regulators, but I’m very glad to see that Minister Butler is having the foresight and the strength to take action at this point in time.