Big call on ‘concerning’ vape laws

Prescription nicotine vape suppliers say they back stronger laws in a bid to tackle organised crime but have asked for one “very concerning” proposed rule to be eased.

Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler discusses the “urgent need” to address the vaping epidemic, particularly amongst young people. Reports show almost one in ten young adults aged 18-24 are vaping daily. Mr Butler slammed vaping as a “product so deliberately targeted at young people” in an interview with Sky News Australia. “We know now, [it’s] a product designed to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction. “We’re willing to have it in the toolbox … to help hardened smokers kick the habit. “What I’m determined to do, is stamp it out as a recreational product.”

After new laws came into effect in March that banned the importation of unlicensed vapes, the parliament is now considering the next tranche of legislation that would limit access to e-cigarettes to prescription only.

Wilhelm David from From the Fields, which manufactures prescription nicotine vapes, appeared before the senate inquiry considering the legislation on Wednesday, testifying that when used appropriately, the products could help save lives.

But he said the proposed limitations on flavours – restricting prescription nicotine vaping products vapes to just menthol and tobacco – were “concerning” and should be relaxed to help smokers make the transition from cigarettes to therapeutic vapes.

New vaping legislation is aimed at stamping out non-prescription use. Picture: Glenn Campbell

“Most current users of therapeutic vapes now accessing simple fruit flavours will be significantly affected. Simple fruit flavours are not candy flavours. There’s a big difference,” Mr David said.

“Therapeutic vapes already play an important role in transitioning smokers away from cigarettes.

“We continue to recommend Australian regulations to be amended on NVP flavours to include simple fruit flavours, such as mango, blueberry and apple, in addition to menthol and tobacco.”

Fellow vape manufacturers Leider Pharmaceuticals and Bay Pharma backed the government’s proposed legislation, saying their products were helping those addicted to nicotine move away from cigarettes.

They agreed that greater enforcement would help whittle down the black market that was causing undue harm to Australians.

“We welcome the proposed legislation insofar as it aims to reduce the supply of NVPs by the black market and aims to streamline the supply of therapeutic MVP through the medical access framework,” David Burns from Bay Pharma said.

Health Minister Mark Butler has led the crackdown on vaping. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Medical and health experts had earlier reluctantly agreed that prescription vapes played a role in helping Australians wanting to stop smoking cigarettes but warned they should not be the default.

Michael Bonning from the Australian Medical Association told senators that GPs supported the prescription model for vape access, citing the complexity of nicotine addiction and the need for the right management approach.

“We would consider (prescription vaping) a fourth line tool,” Dr Bonning said.

“There are more effective medications.”

The National Heart Foundation of Australia had earlier told the inquiry that if someone was to design a device that increased heart risk, they “couldn’t do much better” than a vape.

“If we were to purposefully design something to increase heart risk, we probably couldn’t do much better,” Professor Garry Jennings said.

Disposable, non-prescription vapes are a leading concern for health and medical experts. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

Mark Brooke, from the Lung Foundation, said the proposed legislation was not a ban but instead about bringing vaping in line with other prescriptions.

“The prescription pathway takes (vapes) out of the hands of young people and nonsmokers while still allowing for people who are trying to quit smoking to access them under medical supervision,” the foundation said in its submission.

It also warned about the lack of awareness of the dangers of e-cigarettes, encouraged by industry through messaging of vapes being “safer” than tobacco, had led to normalisation.

The proposed reforms would “de-normalise” vaping, the foundation said.

Speaking to the health risks of young people vaping, considering 21 per cent of people aged 18-24 and 9.7 per cent of 14-17-year-olds now vape, Professor Rowena Ivers from the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of GPs said it was causing cardiovascular issues.

“Every bit of nicotine will put your pulse and your blood pressure up,” she said.

“(Also) issues of insomnia and waking up through the night and reduced quality of sleep. And certainly I’m hearing stories about adolescents having to leave class four times during one lesson, so interrupted learning as well.”

Read More: Big call on ‘concerning’ vape laws