Research relevant to the potential impacts of electronic cigarettes on public health is continuing to evolve including in areas such as safety of the product, cessation efficacy and trends in awareness and use.
Research relevant to the potential impacts of electronic cigarettes on public health is continuing to evolve including in areas such as safety of the product, cessation efficacy and trends in awareness and use. However, Cancer Council Australia and the Heart Foundation Australia believe that based on past experience in tobacco control and early research on electronic cigarettes, there is sufficient information to act on three particular regulatory gaps in order to prevent uptake and use of electronic cigarettes by young people and other risks to public health:
- Restricting the retail sale of non-nicotine electronic cigarettes. In Australia, it is generally unlawful to sell electronic cigarettes that contain nicotine without approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration. This restriction should also apply to non-nicotine electronic cigarettes, which come in a variety of fruit, confectionery and other flavours that appeal to children. Laws in South Australia, Western Australia and Queensland prohibit the sale of products that resemble tobacco products. There are no such laws in other states and territories, meaning that non-nicotine electronic cigarettes (when marketed without therapeutic claims) can be lawfully sold.
- Ensuring smokefree laws in each state and territory cover electronic cigarette use. As a general rule, the purchase, possession or use of electronic cigarettes containing nicotine is currently unlawful under Australian poisons and public health laws. However, these laws are complicated and difficult to enforce. Prohibiting use of all electronic cigarettes under smokefree laws would make the law clear for the community and ensure that both nicotine and non-nicotine electronic cigarettes are not used in places where smoking tobacco is prohibited.
- Prohibiting advertising and promotion of electronic cigarettes, consistent with tobacco advertising prohibitions. Electronic cigarettes are being aggressively promoted, with young people and children clearly identified as a target market. Electronic cigarette advertising should be subject to similar restrictions as tobacco products.
This position is supported by Quit Victoria and Cancer Council Victoria.
As noted above, on 13 October 2016, the Victorian Parliament passed the Tobacco Amendment Act 2016 (Vic). The Act amends the Tobacco Act 1987 (Vic) to include a ban on the sale of all electronic cigarettes to minors, a ban on the use of all electronic cigarettes in smokefree areas, as well as restrictions on advertising and promotion of electronic cigarette products. The new laws apply from 1 August 2017.
For further information, see the Victorian Department of Health website on Tobacco Reforms.