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Urgent action required to address the e-cigarette epidemic in Victoria

Posted 26 Jun, 2022

Quit Victoria, VicHealth and Cancer Council Victoria are calling for urgent action to protect current and future generations from becoming dependent on harmful e-cigarettes and start smoking.

The Four Corners program on ABC last night showed the extent to which importers and retailers in a multi-billion-dollar industry are breaking the law, by selling e-cigarettes to children.

Last week, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) released a comprehensive evidence review, which concluded that e-cigarette aerosol is harmful to health and that people who use e-cigarettes are highly likely to go on to smoke.

“The NHMRC review found that e-cigarettes present very real dangers to children and youth,” said Dr Sandro Demaio, chief executive officer of VicHealth. “We’re hearing from parents and community leaders, and teens themselves, that vaping is a huge issue for communities around Victoria.

“The liquid in e-cigarettes contains dozens of toxic chemicals including formaldehyde, nicotine and heavy metals. These are chemicals that are known to cause cancer and damage the brain and do not belong in our lungs.”

The need for a licensing scheme for cigarette and e-cigarette retailers in Victoria, to simplify and strengthen enforcement of laws, is now critical according to Todd Harper, chief executive officer of Cancer Council Victoria.

“We need the federal government to do more to stop unlawful e-cigarette imports, sure, but we also need to ensure there are consequences for retailers in Victoria who are knowingly doing the wrong thing and illegally selling harmful e-cigarettes to children.”

Mr Harper said that surveys conducted by the Cancer Council had shown high levels of community support for measures that protect children from vaping and smoking. “There are serious community concerns right now and strong support for action. The Victorian Government has the opportunity to introduce a gold-standard licensing scheme and really show the way in Australia.”

Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White said the NHMRC review reported there was conclusive evidence that children who vape are more likely to go on to smoke.

“Let’s set our young people up for a healthier future. We can’t sit by and let companies break the law to make a buck at the expense of children’s lungs.

“We have to stop companies, backed by Big Tobacco, and retailers from using these products to addict a new generation of Australians to harmful products.”

Quit Victoria, VicHealth and Cancer Council Victoria are calling for:

  • The Victorian Government to rapidly introduce a retail licensing scheme that will deter and, if necessary, penalise retailers breaking the law
  • The federal government to do more to stop unlawful e-cigarette imports.

Notes:

In Victoria it is illegal to sell an e-cigarette device or e-cigarette accessory (including an e-liquid capsule/container) to a person under 18 years old (regardless of whether the device or accessory contains nicotine).

While Councils can conduct checks on sales of e-cigarettes to minors, only Victoria Police can enforce the laws against selling nicotine e-cigarettes.
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