Australians under the age of 18 will no longer be able to buy e-cigarettes in Victoria under new laws regulating the sale of e-cigarettes which are set to be introduced into state parliament this week.
Under the new laws e-cigarettes will be regulated in the same way as tobacco products, meaning all existing bans on the sale, use and promotion of tobacco products will also apply to all e-cigarettes in Victoria.
The ruling will cover all types of e-cigarettes sold in the state. Within Australia, the legislation regarding e-cigarette use, display and sale varies from state to state. Although the sale of non-nicotine e-cigarettes is currently unregulated in Australia, it is illegal to sell e-cigarettes and e-liquids containing nicotine.
From August 1, 2017 in Victoria e-cigarettes will also be banned in all areas where smoking is prohibited, such as enclosed workplaces, dining areas, outdoor dining areas, schools and in cars carrying children.
Victorian Minister for Health Jill Hennessy said the new laws will help to “de-normalise smoking.”
“We’re making sure businesses will have the flexibility they need regarding the use of their outdoor areas, while Victorians and their families can eat their meals in a healthier and safer, smoke free environment,” Ms Hennessy said.
E-cigarette bans a missed opportunity, says convenience store industry body
The ruling has come under fire by the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), with AACS boss Jeff Rogut calling e-cigarettes a “category of untapped potential”. Mr Rogut says e-cigarettes are well suited to the convenience store model and have significant potential to drive revenue growth.
“E-cigarettes could provide real economic opportunities for small businesses like convenience stores in their efforts to offer consumers choices on whether to embrace ‘less harmful’ products,” Mr Rogut said.
Earlier this year AACS joined with health experts to call upon the government to develop a framework for the legal sale of e-cigarettes following a senate inquiry.
Mr Rogut says a national framework for the legal sale of e-cigarettes needs to be implemented sooner rather than later, before “the black market fills the gap” like with traditional tobacco products.
“Kneejerk reactions to ban e-cigarettes represent a huge missed opportunity. We should be making it easier – not harder – for people to access products and information that might help them quit,” Mr Rogut said.
“Illicit e-cigarettes, like illicit tobacco, are by their very nature non-compliant with any mandatory quality, safety or packaging requirements. Yet they are already available for sale – and not through responsible, trained retailers.
“Where gaps in the legal market exist, criminals will seek to exploit those gaps, so it’s essential that we develop the proper framework to govern the responsible sale of e-cigarettes now,” he said.
International studies have backed up the potential role e-cigarettes can play in tackling smoking. August 2015 study commissioned by Public Health England stated that e-cigarettes are around 95 per cent safer than smoked tobacco.
In the US, convenience industry analysts predict the sale of e-cigarettes will soon surpass traditional cigarette sales. Research by Wells Fargo indicates US retail sales of electronic smoking devices could top the $10 billion mark by 2018 due to ongoing interest by both manufacturers and consumers.
Mr Rogut says if e-cigarettes are too heavily taxed it may discourage or prevent people from investigating this solution.
“AACS supports restrictions on the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, ensuring the products are child tamper proof, contain an ingredients list and meet minimum safety and quality standards.
“Convenience stores are proven responsible retailers and have the potential role to play at the coal face, conveniently providing adult consumers a healthier, safer choice.”