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Australian government cracks down on smoking and vaping


CANBERRA, Australia — Australia’s tobacco tax will be increased by billions of dollars over the next four years as the government cracks down on smoking and vaping.

Recreational vaping will be banned as the government seeks to prevent the next generation from becoming addicted to nicotine, Health Minister Mark Butler said on Tuesday.

Tobacco tax would be increased by 5% per year from September, Butler said, a total increase of 3.3 billion Australian dollars ($2.2 billion) over four years. This follows a 234 million Australian dollars ($157 million) increase for tougher regulations on e-cigarettes, including new controls on their importation and packaging.

“Vapes contain over 200 chemicals that don’t belong in the lungs. Some of the same chemicals you’ll find in nail polish remover and weed killer,” Butler said.

The government will work with states and territories to end the sale of vapes in retail and convenience stores and make it easier to get a prescription for therapeutic use.

To combat the growth of the black market, the government will increase product standards for vapes, including restricting flavors and colors. This will require pharmaceutical-like packaging, a reduction in maximum permitted strengths and volumes of nicotine, and a ban on single-use vapes.

“This is a product for our children,” Butler said. “Vaping has become the No. 1 behavioral problem in high schools, and it is becoming more widespread in elementary schools. This must stop.”

Butler said hard-won public health gains from reducing smoking could be reversed by the “new threat.”

Steve Robson, president of the Australian Medical Association, the country’s leading doctors’ group, backed the decision. “We know that the new, younger generation of Australians are addicted to vapes and this is a great initiative,” he said.

Alcohol and Drug Foundation CEO Erin Lalor said most people who vape in Australia use unregulated products, with no idea what’s in them.

“Some people who vape, including young people, may use nicotine unknowingly and have developed an addiction,” she said.

A 63 million Australian dollars ($42 million) public health campaign will be launched to discourage Australians from starting vaping and encourage those who already need to quit. Support programs to help Australians quit vaping will be boosted with an investment of AUD 30 million ($20 million), and education of health practitioners on smoking and nicotine cessation will be boosted . The government will commit an additional A$140 million ($94 million) to a program to help indigenous people quit smoking, which will be expanded to include vaping.

Australia has one of the lowest smoking rates among countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, with 11.2% of Australians aged 15 and over smoking in 2019, according to government statistics.

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.