Nationals plan to sell vapes at supermarket criticised by experts

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Nicotine vapes could be on sale to adults at supermarkets across the country under a Nationals plan to “protect children” that’s been slammed by experts as “dangerous”.

Claiming current laws are not working, the Nationals want to align the sale of e-cigarettes with cigarettes at licensed retailers where they are sold from behind the counter.

But the push has raised new questions about the Nationals embrace of political donations from tobacco companies and the tactics being used to push for a relaxation of vaping laws.

As it stands, the law makes it illegal to sell, supply or possess an e-cigarette containing nicotine without a doctor’s prescription in Australia.

But those laws have done little to stop vapes becoming widely available online and in vape stores with an explosion of use among teenagers and children attracted by sugary flavours.

Nationals leader David Littleproud claims reforms introduced under the Morrison government that he served as Deputy Prime Minister — to require a script for nicotine vapes — “haven’t worked”.

The Nationals want to make vapes available in supermarkets. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/AFPThe Nationals want to make vapes available in supermarkets. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP

“In fact, it has exposed children to this increasing black market of vapes,” he said.

Instead, he wants the Albanese government to drop the requirement that smokers go to a doctor to get a script for nicotine-based e-cigarettes and simply allow them to be bought and sold to adults at the corner store.

“These things are on every street corner,” he said.

“And what we need to do is to be able to tighten them up to streamline the regulation with the ones we’ve got, particularly when they’re aligned to cigarettes, and make sure that we make the policing easier for our state and federal agencies to crack down on.

“And we look to look at the flavours that are offered, the packaging and even making sure that we don’t get carried away with the excise and that excise we can put into regional health and making sure that we invest that back into regional health programs.

“At the moment we’ve got an epidemic out there where young children are getting on these things.”

Big Tobacco, big donations

But the Nationals’ enthusiastic support for the sale of nicotine vapes is refocusing attention on the fact that the junior Coalition partner still takes donations from tobacco companies.

The AEC Transparency Register shows that since 2017, Philip Morris has contributed $245,562 to the National Party of Australia.

British American Tobacco is also a word leader in the vaping market.

But the Nationals leader told he had no issue with taking money from big tobacco companies.

“Because it’s a legal product,” Mr Littleproud said.

‘These things are on every street corner.’‘These things are on every street corner.’

“We actually, we believe in self responsibility. And you take responsibility for your own actions. I mean, [Health Minister] Mark Butler is out there now. saying that we were actually compromised by this. Well, I could run the ruler down the corporate donors to Labor and actually go well, any decision they make or policy decision they make is compromised.

“That’s a puerile political discussion.

“It’s a legal product. We’ve taken money from the telcos, from the banks from even if you want to see my comments on wagering companies, they donate to the Nationals as well.”

Last year, the tobacco company donated $55,000 to the Nationals and $55,000 to the Liberal Democrats, a group that has consistently championed vaping as “the safer alternative to smoking”.

Health experts shoot down plan

Public Health Association of Australia chief executive, Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin, slammed the Nationals’ vaping plan.

“It is dangerous and is guaranteed to commit today’s children and future generations of Australians to lifelong nicotine addiction,” he said.

“Tobacco is one of the most available consumer products in the market. It is available in supermarkets, convenience stores, petrol stations, bars, pubs, clubs, and more. This is exactly the model that will make the vaping problem worse, so it is the opposite of the solution we need.

“By being the only major political party in Australia that takes tobacco industry money – at least $276,062 between 2015-16 and 2021-22 from Philip Morris Ltd – the Nationals have ensured its views on this issue are worse than irrelevant.”

Professor Emily Banks, a public health expert who works at the Australian National University, said the role of tobacco companies in pushing vapes was well-established.

“The World Health Organisation has a list of all the different tactics that the tobacco industry uses to further their own interests,” she told

Experts argue the plan would expose children to nicotine addiction.Experts argue the plan would expose children to nicotine addiction.

“And so those do include the things that we are seeing with this e-cigarette lobbying. So for example, their campaign of you know, Responsible Vaping Australia, is actually funded by British American Tobacco. E-cigarette money was used to set up the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.”

The Cancer Council of Australia declined to comment on the Nationals support of vape reform or the looming inquiry into the regulation of e-cigarettes.

Vaping report imminent

Mr Butler is set to release new reforms in coming weeks to crackdown on vaping.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear just how big a public health menace vaping is in this country to the general community, but particularly to our children and adolescents,” he said.

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“These products are often directly marketed not just to adolescents, but to very young children – they might have pink unicorns on them, they’re bubblegum flavoured.

“I was told of a story by a parent earlier this week of discovering a vape in their child’s pencil case that was made to look like a highlighter pen so they could take it to school. I mean, this is cynical, this is shameless, and this is posing a deep threat to our children and adolescents.”

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