Vape police could be rolled out in Australia

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Vape police could be rolled out to monitor the sale of e-cigarettes to children across Australia including on TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram under a plan that will ban most imports and introduce plain packaging.

A crackdown on the importation of vapes, plain-packaging and a ban on flavours will be announced in the May budget to tackle the health emergency of thousands of teenagers who have “gone nuts” for e-cigarettes.

But the second stage of that crackdown – licensing sellers and using that cash to boost enforcement measures at a state level – is the next phase of a world-leading crackdown.

There are also calls to ban ads for vapes on social media that targets kids including on Snapchat and Instagram.

VicHealth CEO Sandro Demaio, a globally-renowned public health expert and medical doctor, told that as soon as the Albanese Government introduced new import bans enforcement could be much tougher at a state level.

“In many ways this explosion of vaping has really come out of nowhere over just a couple of years,’’ he said.

“But the reverse is also possible if we ban the advertising of vapes and actually clamp down on the use of social media to promote these products.

“If we make them less alluring, so they don’t they don’t come in Froot Loops flavour and look like a highlighter. They don’t have unicorns on the side. That will make them far less appealing.

“And basically cut off the tap at the border. Those things will absolutely make a huge difference.”

Australian teens have ‘gone nuts’ for vaping, sparking a health emergency.Australian teens have ‘gone nuts’ for vaping, sparking a health emergency.

Dr Demaio said that introducing plain packaging was important because that would then allow enforcement to swing into action.

“Obviously, we want to close the access and the huge amount of vapes that have been finding their way into the hands of particularly young people,’’ he said.

“So what needs to happen at the state level is that there needs to be a licensing scheme in every state.

“The licences themselves would create revenue, which can support enforcement officers, so we’re not relying on police to enforce the measures that we currently have.

“In theory, they’re not currently subject to the laws because they don’t contain nicotine. But the vast majority do contain nicotine; they’re just simply not putting in all the packets.

“And really, what needs to be done is to say, ‘Well, if there’s no flavours, no colours and the only pathway through a prescription, and they, they, they have pharmaceutical packaging, it then makes it much easier for the states to actually enforce it.”

He warned children were being “viciously” exploited.

The changes would see plan packaging on vapes and a ban on flavours. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/AFPThe changes would see plan packaging on vapes and a ban on flavours. Picture: Patrick T. Fallon/AFP

“Well, what’s happened over the last few years is that the tobacco industry and the e-cigarette industry, of which there’s huge overlap, has seen an opportunity to, you know, get another entire generation of Australians addicted to nicotine with a new product. That’s flown under the radar,’’ he said.

“This industry has used young people’s social media. These things are all over social media. You can you jump on Tik Tok and there are ads for E cigarettes with a ‘Buy Now’ button.

“Social media is under-regulated in this country. They have flooded the market with really cheap imports from overseas that don’t declare that they contain nicotine.

“And it’s been a combination of social media, weaponising their data on social media and flooding the market with really cheap and highly addictive imports.”

Slamming as “utter horse-s**t” the claim that most vapes being sold to kids do not contain nicotine, Health Minister Mark Butler told last week that the “insidious” product was creating a new generation of addicts.

‘Vape police’ could be introduced across the country.‘Vape police’ could be introduced across the country.

“The school authorities are off their brain,’’ Mr Butler told

“It’s not just high schools. It is primary school.

“So I am intending to take some pretty substantial action.”

Mr Butler said it was “horse-s**t” to suggest that vapes that included nicotine were not being sold to kids.

“These stores are operating under the fiction that what they’re selling is non-nicotine vapes. And we know that’s utter horse-s**t,’’ he said.

“Every time anyone does a random test of these things they’re found to be overwhelmingly nicotine vapes, and you have to ask the question, why wouldn’t someone want to use a vape that didn’t have nicotine in them? I mean, that’s the whole purpose of them is to get that hit.”

Under current laws vapes with nicotine can only be bought with a prescription from a chemist. But that hasn’t stopped thousands of convenience stores and online providers selling to kids.

Mr Butler said the exact nature of the crackdown will be announced in coming weeks.

“We would have to take some action at the border, which Greg Hunt tried to do to his credit, but he then got rolled within I think 10 days by his party room,” he said.

“The TGA has recommended pharmaceutical packaging. So not these pretty ones with pink unicorns on them. It would be plain flavoured.”

Mr Butler conceded that part of the challenge was getting the regulatory framework right and the second issue was enforcing it.

“Because they’re not coming in as shipping containers labelled vapes,’’ he said.

“They’re coming in, in quite small boxes, which is really where the states and territories come in.

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“I think what’s been happening is the Commonwealth has been saying we can’t do anything about the fact that this has just gone nuts because it’s a state and territory policing issue.

“This is such an insidious product that the tobacco industry has deliberately designed to create a new generation of nicotine addicts.”

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