Sales of all vaping products other than those prescribed by doctors to help quit smoking should be halted to stem the surge in youth vaping, a leading tobacco control expert has said.
In an opinion piece published in the Sax Institute's peer-reviewed journal Public Health Research & Practice, associate professor Becky Freeman said predatory retailers of vaping products , Manufacturers and importers took advantage of loopholes in regulations to put illegal products on the market that appealed to young consumers.
In theory, Australia's regulatory model should effectively protect young people from vaping, as a doctor's prescription is now required to obtain nicotine-containing products, which are only used as a smoking cessation aid.
However, Freeman, an associate professor at the University of Sydney's School of Public Health and the Charles Perkins Centre, said in practice manufacturers continue to import and sell vaping products that contain nicotine, they just don't label them as containing nicotine or falsely claim they don't. nicotine.
“Distinguishing legal non-nicotine vaping products from illicit nicotine-containing devices requires laboratory testing, which hinders effective enforcement of regulations,” she wrote.
"Stopping the importation of all vaping products into Australia, regardless of nicotine content, unless shipped to a pharmacy, will simplify and improve enforcement and stop the flood of illicit products. It will also make vaping products less accessible to young people."
About a third of Australian teenagers aged 14-17 have used e-cigarettes, a recent survey found, and previous research has found harm from vaping, including poisoning, burns, addiction and lung damage.
Dr Freeman writes that Australia has fallen behind on tobacco control since the landmark plain packaging reform more than a decade ago. Understandably, the focus of public health action in recent years on the COVID-19 pandemic has stalled momentum in chronic disease prevention. Players in the tobacco, alcohol, gambling and fast food industries have been quick to take advantage of this lack of focus, she said.
She wrote: "The Australian government was caught flat-footed by an aggressive industry seeking to undermine decades of effective tobacco control.
But she also acknowledged the good news that after 10 years of minimal action, new measures and initiatives are being developed to reduce smoking, which remains the single most important preventable cause of ill health and death in Australia.
In November 2022, the federal government announced it would reignite the fight against smoking addiction with a series of new measures. Although these have not yet been tabled in the Australian Parliament, they are expected to include updated graphic warnings on tobacco products; protection against the use of flavors and additives such as menthol; Activities remain transparent.
The Health Secretary recently approved a new National Tobacco Strategy with ambitious targets to reduce smoking rates, while the Therapeutic Goods Administration recently launched a consultation on potential reforms to prevent children and young people from accessing vaping products .