The Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has welcomed calls by UK health organisations to develop a public health consensus on e-cigarettes, with the industry body now calling on local government to establish its own framework for the sale of e-cigarettes in Australia.
Thirteen health organisations in the UK including Public Health England released a joint statement earlier this week calling for more information and greater transparency about the use and impacts of e-cigarettes, products they state “are the most popular quitting tool in the country with more than 10 times as many people using them than using local stop smoking services”.
Jeff Rogut, AACS CEO, said the UK approach represents a key step forward in recognising that e-cigarettes are a safer alternative to smoking.
“There’s growing recognition on an international scale that e-cigarettes are among the most widely used and effective products to help people quit smoking. Australia is at risk of falling behind the rest of the world in making these products available to people who could benefit greatly from their use,” Mr Rogut said.
“The fact that the UK’s most authoritative and respected public health bodies are calling for a public conversation to improve the general public’s awareness of the use and effects of e-cigarettes demonstrates the enormous opportunity these products provide.”
E-cigarettes in Australia
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.
Earlier this year in May the Victorian state government introduced new laws regulating the sale of e-cigarettes, banning the sale of e-cigarettes to those under 18 across the state. As part of the new regulations, e-cigarettes will now 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.
Mr Rogut said local governments needs to develop a framework for the responsible sale of e-cigarettes. In Australia, the New Nicotine Alliance has previously called on government to lift the ban on e-cigarettes.
Convenience stores “responsible retailers”
Mr Rogut said Australia must be part of the growing international movement and outlined various key issues to be considered in developing an appropriate framework for the legal sale of e-cigarettes.
“The AACS supports restrictions on the sale of e-cigarette products to minors, ensuring e-cigarettes and associated products are child tamper proof, contain an ingredients list, comply with quality standards and are manufactured and sold with strict safety standards in place,” Mr Rogut said.
“Convenience stores are proven responsible retailers of restricted products like lottery tickets and tobacco and are completely capable of responsibly selling e-cigarettes as well, providing adult consumers a healthier, safer choice,” he said.
“The more readily available these products are, the greater their chance of success. This naturally extends to other safe stop-smoking products as well, such as nicotine gums and patches, which are restricted to pharmacy and supermarket sale yet require no medical expertise from staff members.
“If e-cigarettes are too heavily taxed it may discourage or prevent people from investigating this solution, especially people from lower socio-economic backgrounds, who make up a large proportion of Australians who smoke,” Mr Rogut said.