The NSW Government has passed legislation banning the sale of e-cigarettes to minors. Amendments to the Public Health (Tobacco) Act 2008 were passed by the NSW Parliament recently restricting the sale of e-cigarettes to children and their display and advertising, as per tobacco products.
Queensland has already legislated to restrict e-cigarettes, including banning sales to minors and proscribing locations where they can be used. The other states and territories are considering policy options for the regulation of e-cigarettes and/or keeping a watching brief on the evidence regarding e-cigarettes.
The new laws will make it an offence:
Police will be able to seize an e-cigarette in the possession of a person under the age of 18 and restrictions also apply to the display and advertising of e-cigarettes and using vending machines to dispense e-cigarettes on behalf of a minor. Vending machines will only be located in limited areas, such as licensed premises.
NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said the Government was committed to addressing community concerns that e-cigarettes might act as a gateway to tobacco smoking.
This is a comprehensive piece of legislation, which will guard against the renormalisation of smoking among the young, as it has the potential to undermine decades of successful anti-smoking efforts in NSW,” she said.
Recent research in the UK and US has shown rapid increases in the sale and use of e-cigarettes, and while population-level data for Australia is not yet available, state and federal governments are concerned that Australia will follow suit.
A report released in April by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention revealed that e-cigarette use had tripled among middle and high school students in just one year, between 2013 and 2014. A report released in May by Action on Smoking and Health UK estimated 2.6 million people in the UK smoke e-cigarettes and, of these, nearly two out of five were ex-smokers and three out of five were current smokers.
Although the size of the Australian market is not yet known, there is concern from the public health community that the same rapid increase in usage could occur here.
Business analysts have estimated the market globally is worth $2.5 billion. There is speculation that the tobacco industry is attracted to the new products for a number of reasons including that it can market them, and people can use them in places where traditional cigarettes are banned, promoting dual use.
Medical and public health practitioners are split on the issue of banning the products because some believe they could be ‘the next big thing’ in smoking cessation.
If assessed and proven as a successful and safe cessation aid, e-cigarettes could potentially be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for use as aids in withdrawal from smoking. There are currently no electronic cigarette products, with or without nicotine, registered with the TGA as ‘therapeutic goods’.
Some in the public health community have expressed concern that non-smokers may be using e-cigarettes because they look glamorous. They also come in confectionary and liqueur flavours and are not always marketed as quit smoking aids but as a lifestyle product.
Amendments put forward by the NSW Opposition in June to ban outdoor smoking of e-cigarettes were rejected by the Parliament.
Their proposed amendments to the Act included having e-cigarettes incorporated into the definition of “smoke”, thereby prohibiting their use in public spaces designated as smoke-free.
“Labor believes that the legislation is incomplete without the application to smoke-free areas, such as cinemas, hospital corridors and even the Parliament,” shadow health minister Walt Secord told Parliament.
The University of Sydney and Cancer Council NSW are undertaking a federally funded study to investigate and recommend proposals for regulation of e-cigarettes.
For further information on e-cigarettes see NSW Health’s fact sheet.