Australia is banning vaping while the UK is giving vapes away for free. Here's what you need to know.

In what is being referred to as the biggest reform to tobacco and nicotine control in a decade, today the federal government announced that Australia will ban the importation of nonprescription vaping products. 

That means that unless you have the sign-off from a doctor to say that you need a vape for the purpose of quitting smoking, you won't be puffing on a legally imported vape. 

Vapes will see heavy regulation in Australia and the importation of all e-cigarettes will be tightly controlled under the new government crackdown. 

Speaking about the decision at the National Press Club on Tuesday, the health minister, Mark Butler, said that the fact vapes are still widely available is "the biggest loophole, I think, in Australian healthcare history." 

"Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit," he said. "It was not sold as a recreational product and, in particular, not one for our kids." 

Vaping is wildly popular among young Australians. A recent study published in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Public Health found that, of over a thousand respondents aged 15 to 24 years old, nearly half had vaped – 33 per cent said they'd used a vape in the past year and 14 per cent said they were current users. 

Here's why that's a problem. 

For a start, vaping in itself presents a public health concern. Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, told Mamamia that it's not known what impacts the chemicals used in vaping have on our health and that "the long-term effects remain a mystery". 


Listen to the No Filter episode about the hectic lives of teenagers. Article continues below. 

On top of this, vaping can lead to a life-long addiction to nicotine. Nicotine addictions are also likely to hit harder and faster for developing brains and there is evidence to say that young people who take up vaping without ever taking up smoking are more likely to smoke tobacco cigarettes in their later years.

Adjunct Professor Slevin said young people's overwhelming adoption of vaping is proof that the campaign to market vaping as a method to help smokers quit "doesn't line up with reality – and it doesn't line up with the reality that parents are seeing around the country." 

Professor Simone Pettigrew, head of food policy at the George Institute for Global Health, agrees that the way that vaping has been sold doesn't line up with what we're seeing in practice in Australia. 

She told Mamamia that she supports the ban overall and particularly, the look to ban disposable vapes, which are the most popularly used by young Aussies. She said that disposable vapes are clearly youth-focused in how they're marketed, and they're designed to hook young people on nicotine. 

"They're cheap and they're so colourful and youth-friendly, they're made to look like USBs or highlighters or pendants that you put around your neck."

Watch the health minister, Mark Butler, address the National Press Club of Australia. Article continues below. 

Video via National Press Club of Australia. 

The government has said that the ban is specifically designed to address the disproportionate threat to the health of young people. 

The clampdown on vaping is largely being supported by public health bodies across the country but it also raises an interesting contrast with the policies being unrolled in other nations. 

For example, in early April the British government announced that one million smokers will be given a free vaping starter kit to encourage them to give up tobacco products as part of a commitment to drive smoking rates to below 5 per cent in England. 

Professor Pettigrew said that Australia is clearly taking a more "precautionary approach" compared to our British counterparts. 

This divide will likely see a huge difference in the public 

Adjunct Professor Slevin said that the divide between Australia's and England's policies will create a real-world "experiment that will play out in the future". 

"But I – and the vast majority of people in public health [in Australia] – agree that the government's approach to diminish these products before they become embedded in society is the smartest approach." 

Image: Canva. 

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