[VIC] Proposed Regulation of E-cigarettes is Appauling

While some argue about the exact percentage, even their loudest detractors admit that e-cigarettes carry far less risk than combustable tobacco.

The Tobacco Amendment Act regulates e-cigarettes in the worst way possible by treating them the same as tobacco.

Good regulation protects consumers. This legislation protects tobacco sales from a new competitor. This Bill will cost lives by reducing the rate at which smokers switch to the far safer alternative.

This is our response to the Bill’s Second Reading speech read by Jill Hennessey in Victorian Parliament on Wed 25 May 2016.

Regulation of e-cigarettes

E-cigarettes, also known as electronic cigarettes, are devices for heating and vaporising liquids that contain flavouring agents and in some cases, nicotine. The vapour is then inhaled, simulating the act of smoking.

While sale of e-cigarettes containing nicotine is illegal in Victoria under the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act 1981, the sale of non-nicotine e-cigarettes is largely unregulated and they can currently be purchased by people under 18 years of age.

Evidence to date about the harms of e-cigarettes and their efficacy as a smoking cessation aid is limited. There is debate nationally and internationally about the potential public harms and benefits of e-cigarettes.

There has been much research over the past decade into the health effects of using e-cigarettes. An evidence review by Public Health England found them to be “around 95% less harmful than tobacco”.

The government is taking a precautionary response, by regulating e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco products. This will reduce potential harms that may arise from young people having access to these devices, and will limit young people’s exposure to associated marketing.

Promote e-cigarettes widely as substitute for smoking” advises report from The Royal College of Physicians from 28 April 2016.

The Report, “Nicotine without smoke: Tobacco harm reduction” states that “the available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely”.

Relevant provisions in the Tobacco Act that relate to tobacco products will be amended to apply to e-cigarette products. The bill will:

  • ban the use of e-cigarettes in all areas where smoking is banned, including enclosed workplaces, outdoor dining areas and cars carrying children;

“Although not subject to the smoke-free legislation that prohibits tobacco smoking in enclosed public places and workplaces, some businesses and organisations prohibit e-cigarette use in places where this legislation already prohibits smoking. Given the lack of evidence on the harmfulness of e-cigarette vapour to others, it would be inappropriate for national legislation to prohibit their use in public places and workplaces.

– Royal College of Physicians, “Nicotine Without Smoke, Tobacco Harm Reduction”, p153

  • ban e-cigarette advertising outside the retail environment and at the point of sale;

This will protect tobacco sales against consumer awareness of safer alternatives

  • ban the display of e-cigarette products at general (non-specialist) retailers;

This will inhibit consumer awareness of lower risk alternatives to tobacco

  • limit the display of e-cigarette products at specialist tobacconists and on airport duty free shops;

This will inhibit consumer awareness of lower risk alternatives to tobacco

  • ban e-cigarette related competitions, rewards and shopper loyalty schemes, free samples and sponsorships;

This will inhibit consumer awareness of lower risk alternatives to tobacco

  • ban the sale or supply of e-cigarette products to people under 18 years of age;

An age limit seems reasonable despite little evidence of regular use by children who are non smoking

  • restrict location of e-cigarette vending machines to licensed premises, casinos and bottle shops;

Why send consumers seeking safer alternative to alcohol and gambling establishments?

  • ban the sale of e-cigarette products from a person (mobile selling)

We see no justification for this

  • from temporary outlets

We see no justification for this

  • and at underage music/dance events.

This is consistent with ban on supply to people under 18 years of age

The Tobacco Act will be amended to define a number of e-cigarette related terms, and a new definition of ‘smoke’ to give effect to this reform.

Commensurate with the existing powers in relation to tobacco products, the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services will have the power to:

  • recommend to the minister that a ban order be made regarding particular products ‘that are not e-cigarette products but that resemble e-cigarette products’;
  • request e-cigarette manufacturers and wholesalers supply the names and addresses of retail businesses that have been supplied with e-cigarettes in the preceding year.

At present, no e-cigarette products have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for use as smoking cessation aids. The bill, however, has been drafted so that the regulation of e-cigarettes does not prohibit the future use of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids, should they be approved as such.

The proposed bill provides for an e-cigarette device to be excluded from the definition of ‘e-cigarette’ through being prescribed in the regulations. This process allows for the future possible exemption of any devices that have been approved as smoking cessation aids by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

We believe that only large tobacco or pharmaceutical companies are likely to go through this process. E-cigarettes used in Australia are almost exclusively produced by companies without connection to Big Tobacco or Big Pharma. This Bill protects the interests of the incumbents against competition from a disruptive technology.

In addition, the proposed bill provides that other products may be captured by the definition of ‘e-cigarette’ through being prescribed as such in the regulations.

I commend the bill to the house.

Debate adjourned on motion of Mr CLARK (Box Hill). Debate adjourned until Wednesday, 8 June.