By Sonia Hickey and Ugur Nedim
The New South Wales government says it is clearing up the confusion over the legality of vaping across the state.
New laws will come into effect in July which mandate a blanket ban on vaping wherever regular smoking is prohibited, including sporting stadiums, public transport stations, public swimming pools and in the vicinity of playgrounds.
Breaching the law will result in a fine of up to $550.
NSW Parliament passed a bill this week facilitating the changes through amendments to the Smoke-Free Environment Act 2000. The ban brings NSW in line with Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and ACT.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard summed up the new law by saying “Put simply, where you are not allowed to smoke cigarettes, you now cannot vape either”.
The government says its decision is a response to growing health concerns in the community.
It claims there is evidence of potential health risks from second-hand e-cigarette vapours – even if the e-liquid does not contain nicotine. It says vapours can contain toxins such as formaldehyde which are known to cause cancer.
But e-cigarette smokers remain perturbed by the government’s overall stance towards e-cigarettes, which they believe is inconsistent with rules relating to the sale of tobacco.
They point out that tobacco sales provide the government with billions of dollars in revenue each year, and that the main reason heavy restrictions are placed on the sale of e-cigarettes is that only a relatively small number of people use them and they can be harder to tax.
Smokers already pay an average of more than $30 for a packet of cigarettes and, last year, the federal government passed legislation to increase the tax on tobacco by 12.5 percent a year until 2020.
E-cigarettes and the law
Under NSW law, e-cigarettes are subject to the following regulations:
- It is an offence to use them in cars with children under the age of 16 present.
- New laws will require retailers to notify NSW Health that they are selling e-cigarettes.
- There are strict regulations as to the display and advertising of e-cigarettes and accessories, and how and where they are sold.
- The sale of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette accessories to minors is illegal, attracting the same maximum penalties as tobacco.
Many health officials have welcomed the new laws, saying the government’s tough anti-smoking prohibitions and media campaigns have proven to be successful at reducing cigarette consumption.
Smoking rates in decline
NSW has seen a reduction from 22.5 per cent of adults smoking in 2002 to 15 per cent in 2016. The federal government is pushing for further reductions in coming years.
E-cigarettes may aid quitting
Many believe e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, and can actually help people to end their habit.
Indeed, smokers have credited e-cigarettes with helping them quit, with figures from overseas suggesting that 6 million smokers in the European Union quit smoking with the assistance of the devices.
With that in mind, many argue that the government’s latest ban may be counterproductive.