UNTIL A FEW YEARS AGO, nicotine use was rapidly declining. In 2019, only 11% of Australians smoked daily, a massive decrease from 24 per cent in 1990. Years of anti-smoking campaigns seemed to finally be paying dividends as young people shifted away from nicotine. But, while cigarette usage has been steadily declining, nicotine usage is experiencing a resurgence, thanks in large part to vapes and e-cigarettes.
When did we stop calling them e-cigarettes and start calling them vapes? Sometime around 2015, vaping began gaining traction as an alternative to smoking cigarettes, although cigarettes remained the most popular source of nicotine. Now, you’ll be hard-pressed to navigate a city crowd, a busy concert, or even a lively pub without detecting a fruity aroma, which can only indicate a nearby vaper. That’s something the Australian government wants to crack down on with the announcement of new laws making it illegal to buy, sell and use vapes.
This isn’t the first time the government has attempted to curb the unhealthy habit. Earlier this year, a softer approach was implemented, to no avail. As a result, the new laws will effectively ban the devices from anyone who doesn’t have a prescription. We’ve broken down the intricacies of the new laws for your convenience. Read on for everything you need to know.
Is vaping banned in Australia?
In essence, yes. Under the new rules, it will be illegal to buy, sell and use vapes, with a ban on the importation of disposable, single-use vapes. The end goal is to eradicate all forms of non-therapeutic vaping in Australia. But there will still be a few ways you can get your hands on the devices. For example, vapes that do not contain any nicotine will not be banned, and nicotine vapes will still be available with a prescription.
The changes coming on January 1st are only the first phase of the new eradication plan. Later next year, even tighter restrictions will be brought into place. The second phase will begin on March 1st, and will ban the personal importation of vapes and require importers and manufacturers to comply with stricter product standards.
Why are vapes being banned?
Originally advertised as a healthier alternative to cigarettes and a means to an end in the process of quitting smoking, vapes have established a stronghold amongst young people. “Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit. It was not sold as a recreational product — especially not one targeted to our kids but that is what it has become,” said Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler in a statement.
With light, fruity flavours, the devices have become heavily romanticised amongst Gen Z and have now positioned themselves as a recreational product, rather than a therapeutic one. Data shows that one in five Australians aged 18-24 currently vape. Those figures massively outweigh the number of cigarette smokers. With vaping most prevalent amongs young people, it’s no surprise that it’s the demographic the government wants to target with the new bans.
“We know that vapes pose a range of known and unknown risks to Australians, particularly among young people,” the government statement reads. “This strong, comprehensive action, complemented by enhanced compliance and enforcement activity across all governments, will turn the tide against the rising use of vapes by young Australians.”
Is vaping bad for you?
While vapes are marketed as a safer, healthier option to cigarettes, their actual impact on health remains a topic of intense scrutiny and concern. Much of the long-term effects of vaping are still unknown, as it is still a relatively new practice. However, we do know that vapes have a harmful effect on respiratory health.
The inhalation of vapourised chemicals and additives, which are commonly found in vapes, can lead to inflammation and irritation of the lungs. This has raised red flags among health experts, particularly regarding the potential long-term consequences after extended usage. We know that vaping can cause seizures, sleep problems, reduced sperm counts, shrunken testicles—yikes—and the emergence of severe lung injuries. These potential risks have prompted health authorities to investigate the specific components of vapes.
On top of this, because vapes are supposed to allow smokers a chance to wean themselves off of cigarettes, most of them still contain nicotine, albeit in lower quantities than cigarettes. Nicotine is an addictive substance, and as vapes have become popular recreationally among people who don’t smoke cigarettes, they operate as a potential gateway into heavier nicotine use.