Taking on Big Tobacco to protect our kids from vapes

Read Minister Butler's opinion piece first published in the Advertiser on 7 February 2024.

The Hon Mark Butler MP
Minister for Health and Aged Care

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General public

As a father of three, I know too well that sending your kids off for the first day of a new school year is always an exciting yet nervous time.

Do they have everything they need? What teacher will they have?

Will they find a good group of friends?

In recent years, another very serious issue has become an increasing concern for many parents - how do I stop my child from being lured into vaping?

Data shows that about one in 6 high school students, and one in 4 young Australians aged between 18 and 24 are vaping.

Vapes have become the No.1 behavioural issue in many schools.

We need to make sure that when our kids start the new school year, they don't pick up vaping alongside new friends and new experiences.

Vapes have morphed very quickly to become a widespread, highly addictive product, and one being deliberately marketed at our kids.

You've probably seen the vapes I'm talking about – brightly coloured with rainbows or unicorns on them, and with flavours like bubblegum, grape or cherry. Vape shops are deliberately setting up down the road from schools – it's an industry targeting their product to kids.

We are taking on Big Tobacco so they can't succeed in getting a new generation addicted to nicotine.

The truth is the only groups who want to regulate and sell vaping products are those who profit from kids getting hooked on nicotine – Big Tobacco and tobacco retailers.

That's why on January 1, the Albanese Government brought in the first stage of our world-leading reforms to protect young Australians.

These disposable, single-use vapes can no longer be imported. Stopping these vapes from coming into the country is the first step in turning the tide on vaping in Australia.

There will be more changes in March. Flavours will be restricted, nicotine concentration will be reduced and pharmaceutical packaging will be used, to make vapes less appealing to young people.

We'll be introducing laws to effectively make it illegal to make, advertise or sell single-use disposable or non-therapeutic vapes anywhere in Australia. Reducing the widespread availability and accessibility of vaping products will be critical to the success of the reforms.

We want to ensure that vaping products are only available from pharmacies for therapeutic purposes.

It is important to know that under these reforms young people and other users of these products will not be punished for possessing a vape. The focus will be to stop the commercial supply and sale outside of therapeutic settings to protect young people.

Quitline

Contact Quitline for help to quit smoking and vaping. You can call the hotline on 13 QUIT (13 7848), to talk to a counsellor or request a callback. The Quitline offers an online chat service in some states and territories, and has resources for health professionals.

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