It’s about to get a whole lot harder for kids to vape

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Great news! A decision made by the Office of Best Practice Regulation (OBPR) means that from next month, it’s going to be much harder for kids to vape.

From 1 October it will be illegal to import e-cigarettes into Australia without a prescription. Which means that, for most Australians, including our kids, it’ll become all but impossible to get their hands on vapes.

Right now, vapes are easy for kids to get

In every state in Australia except South Australia, it’s actually always been illegal to buy and sell vaping products without a prescription. That goes for everyone, not just under 18s. But technically it wasn’t illegal to import them. There is currently no effective Commonwealth restriction on the importation of nicotine containing e-cigarettes and relevant refills ordered from overseas suppliers. 

Which means that plenty of people (canny kids among them), have been buying e-cigarettes and paraphernalia from overseas and legally bringing them into the country. Using them and selling them to their friends, definitely not legal. But also really hard to police.

Vaping is a growing problem among teens

Sure, it’s illegal to use e-cigarettes

That’s all about to change. The OBPR assessed a regulatory change put forward last year by Health Minister Greg Hunt to ban the import of e-cigarettes and refills without a doctor’s prescription. Initially, Hunt’s decision was rejected by government. In fact, 28 Coalition MPs signed a letter condemning the restrictions.

Vaping supporters argued that it was a healthier alternative to traditional smoking. The general thinking was that if e-cigarettes weren’t available, people would go back to smoking cigarettes.

The MP’s letter stated: “We have never seen a public reaction like it. We believe that this reaction shows how many people have relied on vaping products to kick a long term habit of smoking.”

And so, nothing changed. Vaping may be illegal without a prescription, but kids can easily get their hands on them. Plenty order 100 e-cigarettes and refills online, import them into Australia, and sell them to their friends at school.

That’s not a “loophole” that’s a loopcrater the size of Wolf Creek.

It's about to get harder for kids to vape

But it will soon to be illegal to import e-cigarettes

Fortunately, the strange workings of the government are on our side for once. The OBPR is an apolitical body in the prime minister’s department. It’s charged with assessing the effect of government decisions on citizens, on the environment, and on fairness. In this case, it outlined a 180 page document that supported Hunt’s initial ban on importing e-cigarettes.

A significant finding in that document is that there was a large increase in the use of e-cigarettes among youth aged 14 and over. In fact, there was a two to four-fold increase between 2016 and 2019 in people aged 14-29 years. The document states:

The trajectory for this cohort is concerning, with adequate warning of the potential Australian future from the exponential increase in use by US High Schools; in 2019 27.5 % are current e-cigarette users up from 11.7% in 2017 and by Canadians aged 15-19 — 15 % are current e-cigarette users in 2019 up from 6% in 2017. The US Surgeon General described the circumstances in the US as an ‘epidemic of youth e-cigarette use’.

Reducing kids’ ability to get their hands on vapes

The report also found that there is:

Strong evidence of both nicotine e-cigarettes acting as a ‘gateway’ to smoking in youth and that exposure to nicotine in adolescents may have long-term consequences for brain development.

Little wonder then, that they recommended that ‘nicotine for all human use is included in the Poisons Standard as a prescription only medicine with a requirement for a child resistant closure for the container’.

Two of their main aims in doing so was to ‘reduce the likelihood of child poisoning by accidental consumption of nicotine’ and close ‘the risk of the gateway effect on adolescents and young adults of use of e-cigarettes to smoking – that a whole new generation risks addiction to nicotine and smoking.’ In other words, they recognise the importance of making it harder for kids to vape.

You can read the full report here.

What this means for our kids

What this means from 1 October is that the Australian Border Police will be checking packages containing e-cigarettes. The importer must show evidence of a valid prescription or doctor’s letter. If they can’t, they face a significant fine or even prosecution.

A kid has Buckleys of getting their hands on a valid prescription for e-cigarettes. Loopcrater, closed.

Two things parents need to immediately do:

1. Make sure our children know that these laws are changing on 1 October.

That way they don’t make the mistake of trying to illegally importing e-cigarettes or liquids into the country. They may have brought in e-cigarettes before, but it wasn’t against the law until now. Remind them that it’s virtually impossible to police kids vaping, but it’s now completely possible to stop them importing vapes.

2. Celebrate.

It just got a whole lot harder for kids to vape and that’s definitely worth a happy dance.

Feature image by by wild vibes; Girl vaping by Giorgio Trovato; Hoodie vape by Nery Zarate;  Vape by VapeClubMY

Written by Bron Maxabella

Bron is the founder of Mumlyfe and is so happy to welcome you here. Bron has been writing in the Australian parenting space as Maxabella for more than seven years and is mum to three mostly happy kids and wife to one mostly happy husband. Mostly happy is a win, right?

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