##Is vaping really harmless? South Australian push for stronger regulations on e-cigarettes

Health 3 weeks ago Health Australia 22
###Is vaping really harmless? South Australian push for stronger regulations on e-cigarettes | MIDDAY

When it comes to the benefits of e-cigarettes, Australian opinion is divided.

Each state has its own set of regulations on the use, sale and promotion of e-cigarettes and one health expert believes the confusion reflects the fact that it's a relatively new product on the market.

The discussion follows an announcement from South Australian Labor, who will re-introduce a bill into Parliament to tighten regulations in the state.

The call was sparked by concerns that children were getting access to vaping devices, which could potentially encourage more young Australians to take up smoking.

The issue was drafted and introduced by the former government but was not passed by the Legislative Council before the March election.

Chief executive of the Public Health Association of Australia Terry Slevin said each state had an important responsibility for tobacco control and the control of e-cigarettes.

But he believed the argument would remain on whether these devices were beneficial when compared to normal cigarettes.

"The bottom line in Australia is, there's important legislative responsibilities for each state on tobacco control," he said.

"The treatment of e-cigarettes illustrates that fact that it's a new product on the market.

"The different treatment of different jurisdictions is simply because different states are dealing with something new on the market of which we have a limited amount of data."

Does vaping help people quit, or promote smoking?

Mr Slevin said Australia was currently at historic low levels of smoking for young people, with less than five per cent of children in high school smoking.

While many experts believe in the benefits of vaping in helping people to quit smoking, Mr Slevin said there were just as many who opposed that theory.

"On one side of the fence there are many people in the health game who are saying 'before we let this genie out of the bottle, before they become more readily available and widely sold, it's probably important to learn as much as we can about the likely impact of that'," he said.

"The proponents argue that it's an important vehicle for helping smokers to quit and we know the tobacco industry is putting substantial resources into mounting that argument.

He said another argument was supported by research that suggested e-cigarettes may not be as harmless as originally thought and may promote smoking for young people.

"There is also the prospect of e-cigarettes, rather than being used by smokers as a vehicle to help quit, it may well be used as a vehicle to aid them to continue to smoke," he said.

"The third call for concern is the extent to which it may become a pathway for kids to start smoking.

"We're seeing evidence from overseas where e-cigarettes are more readily avaliable, that kids are starting to take an interest in and take up vaping.

"There is also evidence of vaping being promoted to kids."

Labor push for stronger limitations in SA

South Australian Labor today announced it would re-introduce a bill into Parliament to regulate the sale, supply and use of e-cigarettes.

Opposition health spokesman, Chris Picton has called on the issue to be addressed urgently, echoing concerns about the availability of e-cigarettes for children.

"Currently in South Australia there is no restrictions on e-cigarettes whatsoever," he said.

"This bill seeks to impose some sensible regulations into this area.

"Such as banning vaping sales to under-18s, such as making sure you can't vape in non-smoking areas and also restricting the advertising and promotion of these products as well."

The bill will seek to regulate the sale of e-cigarettes to children, retail sales of e-cigarettes without a licence, internet sales and temporary outlet sales.

Do we need stronger regulations?

Mr Slevin said time was an important factor for experts, the Government and the Australian community to consider with e-cigarettes.

He said he supported regulations in place to make these devices less available and before a national crackdown was put forward, more evidence was needed.

"If these devices are legitimately successful as a vehicle to help people quit [smoking], they're effective and safe, then there's a vehicle in Australia for products seeking to claim a therapeutic benefit," he said.

"It's not based on marketing or political lobbying, it's based on evidence and science.

"In the meantime, until that case can be proven, it makes sense to keep the Australian public as safe as we can, and at this stage that's ensuring that they're not as available."

He said while limitations were in place in most states around Australia, we should be using evidence from outside our borders to shape our regulations in the future.

"If we wait and see what real-world evidence accumulates from jurisdictions outside of Australia who have made them more available, then we're going to be very well placed to make a good, sound evidence based judgement.

"Regulations should change in the face of evidence."

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