The Federal government has listened to parents, schools, and medical and public health experts who are increasingly exasperated by the vaping epidemic taking hold among young people.
Last week the Federal government made an historic announcement to prioritise and protect the health of the next generation. Cancer Council WA and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) welcome these long-awaited reforms, which include a ban on the importation of non-prescription e-cigarettes, a ban on disposable e-cigarettes that are so popular with children, and minimum quality standards for prescription e-cigarettes.
Stronger border controls will help stop the flood of illegal products into the country, but urgent action from the WA government is also needed. There are still nearly 200 dedicated vape stores throughout the state, even though retailers were put on formal notice last year. Despite being illegal without a prescription, nicotine e-cigarettes are readily available and their use among young people is increasing. Enforcement measures on the ground have clearly failed to curb the illegal supply of e-cigarettes within our state.
We urge the WA government to build on the momentum at a Federal level by taking decisive action. To aid enforcement, we need state legislative provisions that explicitly prohibit the sale and supply of non-prescription e-cigarettes, and their components and liquids. Harsh penalties for flouting the law are needed to act as strong deterrents. The use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free public places should be banned, as should any forms of e-cigarette advertising or promotion. An injection of resources is needed for a compliance crackdown on non-pharmacy retailers that unlawfully sell e-cigarettes.
At the same time, young people who are experiencing nicotine dependency from vaping need much more support to quit. More training and resources are needed for school nurses, GPs, psychologists, school leaders and youth workers to ensure that young people receive help and treatment to address their dependence.
There is no time to lose. Reform must be progressed as a matter of priority by the WA Government. We must not repeat the mistakes of the past, where early inaction led to a tobacco smoking epidemic. By acting now, the WA Government can leave a positive legacy for the next generation and avert a public health disaster.
CEO Cancer Council WA
Laura Hunter and Geraldine Mellett
Co-CEOs, Australian Council on Smoking and Health