WHAT IS THE LIKELY OUTCOME from Mark Butler’s draconian restrictions on vaping? Having dusted off my crystal ball, here’s my take: Butler’s ban is likely to fail, setting the stage for an eventual shift towards a more progressive vaping policy in 2025.

The key elements of Butler’s crackdown are

Predictions for 2024

1. Rejection of the prescription model

The majority of vapers, unwilling to medicalise their vaping habits, are likely to continue to bypass prescriptions. Limited flavour options, higher costs, inadequate nicotine levels in pharmacy products and a reduced range of products will further drive vapers away from legal channels.

2. Healthcare Professionals’ reluctance

I foresee minimal participation from doctors and pharmacists in the new system. It will remain difficult to get a nicotine prescription and pharmacy supplies will be difficult to access. Few doctors and pharmacists will have adequate training to counsel and support vaping.

3. Black market resilience

Criminal networks are expected to capitalise on the restrictions, fuelling an unregulated market rife with disposables and a limited but evolving product range. This illicit trade could also feed a rise in related criminal activities.

4. Persistence of illegal personal importation

Despite heightened legal risks, many vapers will likely continue to import products illegally, motivated by the fear of reverting to smoking. People are willing to take risks if their lives depend on it.

5. Collapse of the legal vape industry

The stringent regulations are poised to decimate the legitimate vaping industry, resulting in widespread business closures, job losses, and a significant economic impact.

6. Stagnation or increase in smoking rates

The cumbersome legal requirements for vaping will drive some vapers back to smoking. Additionally, the lack of available flavours, limited product range and absence of support from vape shops might deter smokers from transitioning to vaping.

7. Continued vaping amongst youth

The black market will continue supplying a wide variety of flavoured products to underage users. Some enterprising kids will become drug dealers, selling to other kids and making a tidy profit – training wheels for a future criminal lifestyle. Some young people who would have taken up vaping, will instead take up smoking.


Butler’s slow motion train wreck will limp on for about a year, by which time it will be obvious that it was a monumental policy failure, as anticipated by the vaping community.

This policy failure, will eventually lead to a more rational and fair approach to vaping regulation. Hopefully this will commence in 2025.

THE HEALTH MINISTER has announced today the timeline for his long-awaited crackdown on vaping. The importation of disposable single-use vapes will be banned from 1 January 2024 and the personal importation of any vapes or e-liquids (including all refillable devices and nicotine-free e-liquids) from overseas will be banned from 1 March 2024.

Other changes include [media release here]

A Bill will be presented to the federal parliament in February 2024 to approve those changes which require legislation. The Bill requires approval of both houses of parliament and may not be passed. The Liberals and federal Greens have yet to declare their position.

Will this plan work?

There are many weak links in Butler’s plan.

Firstly, the support of health professionals in writing nicotine prescriptions. Most remain skeptical and poorly informed about vaping and most are not willing to be involved. Vapers struggle to find a supportive doctor, and this is unlikely to change. Pharmacists also have not been engaged with vaping and few hold stock, especially as the demand has been low for legal prescribed products.

In any case, vapers have rejected the prescription model. Only 8% of vapers had a prescription in March 2023 and this and this seems unlikely to change significantly.

Vapers are concerned about the very restricted range of products likely to be available from pharmacies. The narrow choice of flavours (tobacco and mint), device types and a low nicotine limit will make pharmacy products less appealing. Cost and pharmacy markup is another major barrier for many low-income vapers.

However, the plan will finally destroy the legitimate vaping industry in Australia, resulting in loss of employment and government revenue.

The black market

But the elephant in the room remains the black market which was created by the prescription model in the first place. It is highly profitable, well established and resilient and controlled by organised crime networks.

The black market will go underground and continue to prosper. Illicit products will continue to flow across the border. In spite of its best efforts, the Border Force has had little impact on illegal vape imports to date and the $25 million allocated for the next 2 years will make little difference in screening the 8 million shipping containers imported annually. State Health Departments have failed repeatedly to police and enforce retail sale laws with any success.

As further products are banned, the black market will step up and supply what people want, including a wider range of products and flavours. These products are not regulated and put consumers at greater risk. Remember the EVALI outbreak Mark Butler?

Mr Butler’s main concern is youth vaping, but is a further ban the solution? Past experience shows that bans are not effective. Young people find a way to access forbidden products. For those that don’t, there are always cigarettes! Bans on youth access lead to greater smoking and more harm to public health overall.

In any case, Mark Butler’s concerns about youth vaping are not based on solid evidence. There is no evidence that vaping is addicting a new generation. The is no good evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking. In fact, it is diverting more young people away from smoking overall. Regular vaping by non-smoking youth in Australia is rare. Many of his other claims about vaping are revealed as porkies on closer examination.


This attempt to resuscitate the flawed prescription model is doomed to fail. Bans don’t cause an unwanted product to disappear. They just hand the market to criminal suppliers.

Criminals will continue to provide unregulated products freely to children, and adult smokers will have restricted access to effective, appealing and affordable regulated vapes. And of course deadly cigarettes will remain freely available!

The big winners will be organised crime and Big Tobacco. The losers are public health, human rights and the economy.

Media release

Media release. Mark Butler. Next steps in vaping reforms 28 November 2023

My media release 28 November 2023

New regulations to place stronger controls on importation, manufacture and supply of vapes. TGA 28 November 2023

AUSSIE VAPERS ARE ANGRY, ANXIOUS AND FEARFUL about Mark Butler’s proposed vaping crackdown. Many are genuinely terrified of returning to smoking and very few are willing to comply with the new laws.

Vapers feel that Mark Butler is not listening. He hears one side of the story from his advisers and is ignoring their needs and concerns.

In their own words

Here are their concerns about the prescription model, based on hundreds of messages I have received over the last few weeks.

Finding a doctor

Finding a doctor who supports vaping and obtaining a nicotine prescription can be a major hurdle.

Costs are prohibitive

The prescription pathway involves medical fees and pharmacy markups and is unaffordable for many low-income and disadvantaged people.

Personal preferences threatened

Successful vaping often involves experimentation to find the right setup that works for you. Starting all over again can be a major challenge.

Flavours are critical

Flavours play a major role in keeping vapers away from cigarettes but only tobacco and mint will be available. This  is a deal-breaker for many vapers.

Government interference

Vapers are angry and frustrated about government interference in their personal choices.

How vapers plan to respond

Aussie vapers are preparing for the ban in various ways.

The black market alternative

Most plan to continue purchasing supplies on the black market in spite of the risks involved. If history is any guide, the black market will simply go underground and illegal, unregulated supplies will remain widely available.

Massive stockpiling

Many vapers have been stocking up with supplies to last for years.

Return to smoking

Some vapers have said it’s all just too hard and have already gone back to smoking. Others intend to smoke again when the laws change. 

Make sure your voice is heard

Evidence-based policy should balance the needs of both adult vapers and youth.

Ignoring the legitimate concerns of adult vapers will increase smoking rates, supports the black market, criminalises vapers and perpetuates access to young people.

Contact your local federal MP and state Senators today and voice your concerns about the proposed ban.

Join and follow ASACA, the Australian Smokefree Alternatives Consumer Association

X (twitter)

NEW EVIDENCE-BASED GUIDELINES on vaping have been released by the UK National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training to educate health professionals about vaping and to encourage them to assist smokers to quit with vaping. The guidelines were prepared by a team of UK and international experts in the field.

The briefing (available here) is also a valuable aid to Australian health professionals. Most Australian doctors remain misinformed about vaping and very few are able to provide support for smokers, raising fears among vapers that they will not be able to access prescriptions and legal vaping supplies when the new regulations are introduced.

This is despite the UK guidelines stating “we now have strong, high-quality research evidence” and that health professionals can be confident in using vapes to help smokers quit.

Vaping is a first-line treatment for smoking in the UK and is the most common stop smoking aid. It also has a role as a reduced-harm alternative to smoking and can help to maintain temporary abstinence. According to Professor John Britton, former Chair of the UK Royal College of Physicians Tobacco Advisory Group,

Smokers are driven by an addiction to nicotine, but it is the many other components of tobacco smoke that disable and kill. So, the emergence of e-cigarettes, which allow smokers to inhale nicotine without smoke and hence at much-reduced risk, has been a game-changer

UK studies show that vaping is twice as effective as nicotine replacement therapy in helping smokers to quit.

The guidelines make it clear that smoking is the health priority, not nicotine,

Abstinence from nicotine is not necessarily a priority, the most urgent priority is to support people to switch away from smoking tobacco

Health and safety

The guidelines clearly state

Anyone who switches from smoking to vaping is instantly improving their current and future health

“Whilst not risk-free, there is no doubt that, relative to continued smoking, vaping is far less harmful”

“The cancer risk for people who vape is considerably lower than for those who smoke”

“Long-term regular vaping has also been found to improve, not worsen, smoking-related diseases such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and smoking-exacerbated diseases such asthma”

“Long-term vaping is unlikely to be without consequences. There is a theoretical possibility that long-term vaping may increase the risks of lung cancer, COPD, cardiovascular and other smoking-related diseases. However, these risks are likely to be significantly lower than the risks of smoking and low in absolute terms”

“If a person who is pregnant chooses to use a vape, and if that helps them to quit smoking and stay smokefree, they should be supported to do so”

Practical advice

The guidelines provide health professionals with practical advice on supporting smokers to quit with vaping a

They also address some of the rampant myths and inaccurate press information about vaping, such as

This briefing is highly recommended for all health professionals who work with smokers.


Vaping: a guide for health and social care professionals. UK National Centre for Smoking Cessation and Training. November 2023

THE HEALTH MINISTER is determined to introduce “the toughest vaping laws in the world” to tackle vaping, which he regards as a public health menace.

We are finally starting to get a clearer picture of the detail of Mark Butler’s plains. Some changes will require legislation and must pass through both houses of federal Parliament. Others are simply regulations that can just be mandated by the Health Minister (more at end).

The elephant in the room is the black market, which will continue to supply illegal products. The black market will go underground, prices will rise and criminal activity is certain to increase. Other unintended consequences of these changes are vapers going back to smoking and an increase in dangerous home mixing.


Legal vaping with or without nicotine will continue to require a prescription from a doctor or nurse practitioner. All GPs will be allowed to prescribe without having to apply to become Authorised Prescribers.

Further GP training is proposed, but no details are available.

Reference. Reference

Retail sale

Vapes (nicotine and nicotine-free) can only be sold from pharmacies. Sales from other retail outlets will continue to be banned.

Additional funding is needed for state Health Departments to enforce illegal retail sale. NSW is to increase its 7 inspectors to 14. Little other information is available so far.


Only tobacco and a weak mint flavour will be allowed.


Nicotine concentration limits

Still undecided. The likely limit will be 20mg/mL in line with the arbitrary limit set in the UK. However, even Simon Chapman recognizes this is too low and advises a 50mg/mL limit.


There will be a total import ban on disposable vaping products regardless of their nicotine content.

Date. This will begin on 1 January 2024


Other vaping products

Pharmacies. Closed, pre-filled pod devices will be available from pharmacies. It is currently unclear if pre-mixed nicotine liquid will be available for open devices, such as refillable pod vapes and box mods.

Retail vape shops. The government plans to ban the import of all vape products, except those for pharmacy supply. This includes e-liquids (with and without nicotine), vaping devices, coils and parts. Vape shops will not be able to source stock and will be forced to close. It is anticipated that locally manufactured e-liquids will also be banned in time.

Personal Importation Scheme

The personal importation of vapes from overseas for personal use will be banned.  Only supplies intended for sale from pharmacies will be allowed.

Importers will require a licence and permit to import any therapeutic product.

Penalties for the illegal importation or supply of counterfeit or unapproved therapeutic goods is up to five years’ imprisonment and/or a financial penalty of up to $1.25 million. No extra funding has been provided for the Australian Border Force in this year’s budget however.

This change requires an amendment to the Therapeutic Goods Act, and must pass both houses of federal parliament. The legislation may be blocked in the Senate if the Greens and Liberals oppose it.

Date. 1 March 2024


Advertising restrictions

Vaping products will be brought in line with tobacco products under the current tobacco and vaping amendment bill.


All vape products will require pharmaceutical-like packaging with nicotine content displayed. Bright colours and appealing names banned. Graphic warnings may be required. TGA to produce upgraded standards. Legislation required.

Timing. 1 March 2024


TGA to produce upgraded standards

The current TGO 110 standards will be upgraded with a larger list of allowed ingredients and more robust quality and safety standards. No information currently available.

Support for quitting

Support will be provided for vapers who want to quit. No details provided yet.

Notification of product approval

Products for pharmacy sale must be submitted to the TGA for confirm compliance with the updated TGO 110 standards, before being imported or marketed.


The Minister has announced that legislation is being prepared to ban the manufacturing of vaping products in Australia.

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Legislation or regulation

Legislation must pass both houses of Parliament and can be blocked in the Senate. Write to your federal senators to ask them to support sensible legislation, especially the Greens and the federal Liberals who have not yet publicly declared their position.

‘Regulations’ can be made by the Minister for Health at his discretion or the TGA.



Unclear or Depends on Specifics

WITH THE GREATEST OF HUMILITY, I would like to announce that I have won the UK Vaping Industry Association’s Most Supportive Public Health Professional/Researcher Award for 2023.

The award was announced at the annual UKVIA Forum and Industry Recognition Awards ceremony in London on Friday 10 November 2023.

Most Supportive Public Health Professional/Researcher

This category

“Recognises the contribution that a public health professional has made to speaking up for vaping. The judges will be looking for the actions taken to promote vaping in a public health capacity. This could include, but is not limited to, challenging and/or correcting misinformation, helping educate colleagues or the public about the relative health risks associated with smoking and vaping, being involved in vaping initiatives in a healthcare environment, or speaking about vaping at events and conferences”

I was especially honoured as the other two finalists were the Office Of Health Improvement and Disparities team who produced the extraordinary 2022 evidence update on nicotine vaping in England for the England Government, and an eminent English physician Dr Sudhanshu Patwardhan.

Dr Patwardhan established and is Medical Director of the Centre for Health Research and Education. This global organisation works to find and develop innovative solutions for cancer prevention.

The UK Vaping Industry Association

The UKVIA is a non-profit organisation which represents vape manufacturers, retailers wholesalers, distributors and compliance service providers in the UK. Tobacco companies are not eligible for the membership and it does not accept funding from tobacco companies. The awards are voted for by the members of association.

The association aims to responsibly promote vaping as a lifesaving alternative for addicted adult smokers. It works closely with “policy makers, parliamentarians, regulators, the public health community and some 7m smokers across the UK”.

UKVIA helps develop evidenced-based policy to optimise the public health benefit of nicotine vaping, educates the public and shares the latest research with industry and consumers. The UKVIA has a special Youth Access Prevention Committee to ensure to enforce the ban on underage sales and conducts test purchasing program to ensure that members are not selling to minors. It also has a Standards Committee to assist with setting high standards for quality and safety of vaping products.

The UKVIA  has played a major role in the rapid decline in smoking rates in the UK in recent years, as smoking has become replaced by smoking and should be congratulated for its ongoing public health success and leadership.

REGULATING NICOTINE VAPES AS ADULT-ONLY consumer products like cigarettes would not only benefit public health but would also be a significant boost to the Australian economy.

This blog explores the economic impact of bringing Australian policy into line with other advanced countries such as NZ, the UK, EU and Canada.

The winners will be consumers and the government. The losers are organised crime and the cigarette industry.

Taxation windfall

Legalising and regulating vapes could potentially generate $510 million per year from GST, company taxes (retail and wholesale) and a 5% import tariff. These figures are based on calculations by UK consultancy Independent Economics, for the current market of 1.6 million adult vapers. There would also be personal income tax from employees.

Currently, a staggering 92% of vaping products purchased by Australians come from the black market, generating no tax revenue. Applying only a modest tax rate at the GST level like NRT (as in the  UK, New Zealand and France) would:

Government savings

Healthcare costs

Smoking-related healthcare costs in Australia were estimated to be a staggering $137 billion in 2015-2016. As vaping is considered at least 95% safer than smoking, substantial savings can be expected over time. A UK study estimated that if 50% of smokers switch to vaping, assuming a conservative 70% risk reduction, there would be annual savings of £518 million (approximately AUD 1 billion) for five disease categories.

Compliance costs

The necessary efforts to control the illegal vape network will incur hundreds of millions of dollars of costs annually. This includes border enforcement, policing illegal retail sales and prosecuting cases through the courts. On the other hand, there will be (much smaller) administration costs for running the new legal regulated market.

Reduced GP visits

The cost of an annual doctor’s visit for a nicotine prescription amounts to $61 million (based on 1.6 million vapers at $39.75 per visit). The RACGP advises 3-monthly visits, at a  total annual cost of $242 million.

Reduced smoking cessation treatment costs

Vapers tend to quit on their own, usually without additional costs to the healthcare system. A more widespread adoption of vaping would also lead to reduced expenditure on PBS-subsidised smoking cessation medications, which cost $36 million in the 2020 financial year and fewer doctor visits.

Cost-neutral to taxpayers

Vaping products are paid for by consumers and are cost-neutral to taxpayers, unlike the hefty burden of healthcare costs associated with smoking cessation medicines and treatments.

It should be acknowledged that there will be some reduction in tobacco tax revenue over time due to fewer smokers, but of course that is the intended outcome.

Stimulation of the economy

Gross Value Added (GVA)

A legal vaping industry could contribute $601 million annually to the Australian economy by stimulating the retail and wholesale sectors, according to Independent Economics, including the employment of thousands of workers. Under the proposed crackdown, the retail vape industry will completely shut down.

Benefits also flow over to other industries as well. The Centre for Economics and Business Research in the UK found that for every £10 (AUD $20) of GVA directly generated by the vaping industry, a further £13.39 (AUD $26) of GVA is supported in associated industries, such as transport, printing, and packaging.

Manufacturing and export potential

Australia boasts numerous manufacturing facilities capable of producing nicotine liquids, which are currently limited to nicotine-free variants. Legalising vaping opens the door to manufacturing nicotine liquids for local markets and significant export opportunities, including markets in Asia-Pacific, the EU, Canada, and the UK.

Savings to smokers

Australia currently has the world’s most expensive cigarettes. The average cost of smoking in Australia is $11,850 per year (13 cigarettes per day), while vaping costs from $500 to $2,000 per year, depending on the device used. This translates to potential annual savings of over $10,000 per smoker.

The high cost of smoking is causing significant financial stress for low-income and disadvantaged populations which have higher smoking rates, smoke more heavily and have greater difficulty quitting. This is of special urgency now, at a time of rising living costs and sluggish wage growth. The money saved can be redirected towards essential needs like food, housing, and heating.

The UK example

The United Kingdom’s vaping sector serves as a compelling example of the economic potential of regulated vaping. According to a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research:

In conclusion, legalising and regulating vaping in Australia presents an opportunity to boost government revenue, stimulate economic growth, achieve significant savings in healthcare costs and reduce the financial burden on smokers. By adopting best practice from other nations and implementing stricter controls, Australia can chart a path toward both a healthier population and a more prosperous economy.


CEBR report for UKVIA Economic impact assessment of the vaping industry. September 2022

Independent Economics. Tobacco & vaping in Australia. An updated economic assessment. March 2023

AFTER THE INTERCEPTION of 35 tonnes of illegal vapes at the border, a MYTHICAL, honest Health Minister released this press release

Government admits vaping policy has failed and apologises to the public


8 November 2023

Unfortunately, my government’s prescription-only policy on nicotine vaping has been a total failure and this flood of illegal imports behind me is a direct result of that. I was warned this would happen but did not listen.

Vaping nicotine was designed to help adult smokers quit and is the most popular quitting aid in Australia. However, only 8% of users are willing comply with my onerous and impractical requirement to have a doctor’s prescription.

As a result of my policies, criminal gangs have stepped up to import these products to meet the public’s demand. I now realise there is no way we will be able to control this flood, as we have found repeatedly with other illicit products. This approach will only fuel the black market and lead to further criminal activity.

As expected, these illegal products are not labelled as having nicotine to enable them to pass through customs without detection.

Of course, criminal gangs have no interest in product quality and these products are dodgy and unregulated. They products are mislabelled to avoid interception by Customs as you would expect. They also contain high nicotine levels as they are not subject to any regulations.

The black market has identified teens as a lucrative market, importing youth-friendly products with appealing images and colours for their customers. Some sales outlets have located near schools where their customers are found.

I should point out that these illegal products are not made by tobacco companies as some people cynically suggest. They are all cheap devices imported directly by criminal gangs  from China.

I have been told that some young people are so addicted they need nicotine patches to manage nicotine withdrawal during exams as a result of vaping. However this is only an anecdote and I have no idea how common this is, or if these students were previously smokers.

The idea that we are creating “a new generation of nicotine addicts” is also laughable. In fact, less than 2% of Australian teens who have never smoked are vaping weekly or more, so the risk of dependence is very small.

There is some evidence that youth smoking rates are rising in Australia. Of course, this is highly unlikely to be due to vaping as some claim.  In fact, other countries with similar rates of youth vaping have witnessed a substantial decline in youth smoking—down to as low as 1.1% in the U.S., 2% in Canada, and 3% in both New Zealand and England. The evidence suggests that vaping is replacing smoking in young people and this is good for public health overall.

Rather than double down on a failed policy, I now realise we should reform our approach, in line with other western countries, which are managing this issue much better.

From 1 January 2024, vapes will be adult consumer products sold from licensed retail outlets with strict age verification, just like cigarettes. There will be severe penalties and loss of licence for underage sales. This will allow easier access for adults wishing to quit smoking with legal, regulated products and will restrict access to young people.

Measures will be also taken to reduce the appeal of these products to youth.

I realise this model is not perfect, but it is clearly better than the current mess I have created.

I would like to apologise to the Australian public. I was warned this would likely happen, but unfortunately I have been receiving flawed advice from tobacco control activists with extreme views and should have listened to a wider range of views. I will try to do better in the future.


NB This is a parody, a fake press release in a fantasy post-truth world

DURING LAST NIGHT’S Q+A PROGRAM, Health Minister Mark Butler highlighted legitimate concerns about youth vaping. However his proposed solutions could undermine public health and miss the chance to leverage vaping as a cessation tool for adult smokers. Video here.

The crux of the issue is Australia’s flawed vaping regulation. The current regulations have created a thriving black market which make vapes readily accessible for young people.

The prescription-only model for vaping has been opposed by healthcare professionals and rejected by the public. It has created a booming black market, complete with violence and criminal activity, and a proliferation of substandard, unregulated products sold to minors.

Minister Butler’s plan to halt the import of these products will involve exorbitant enforcement and policing costs, with dubious effectiveness. History has shown that prohibition (including de facto prohibition) — whether of alcohol or drugs — does not stem availability; it simply fuels illicit trade.

As Patricia Karvelas noted, cocaine is banned but is freely available, as are a wide range of other illicit products. If people want a drug, criminal networks will find a way of making it available.

A more pragmatic regulatory framework would treat vapes as adult-only items, sold through licensed retail outlets with stringent age checks, similar to tobacco and alcohol. Such a system, with severe penalties for violations, has been successful in other countries like New Zealand, the UK, the US, and Canada.

Older smokers forgotten

A glaring oversight in Australia’s policy is its failure to serve older smokers, a demographic shown by the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey to have stalled in quitting rates. For these individuals, vaping could be a life-saving alternative, yet misinformation and the prescription model’s complexities deter them from the legal pathways.

This policy neglects an entire generation of smokers, risking lives that could have been saved — a true public health tragedy. Minister Butler should focus on education and support to encourage vaping as a safer substitute for those adult smokers unable to quit via traditional means, emulating the stance of governments in New Zealand and the UK. Easier access to legal vaping products for adults could avert a public health tragedy.

Keep youth vaping in perspective

The potential harm to young vapers should be kept in perspective. Youth vaping, especially among non-smokers, tends to be experimental and short-lived. Vaping is not without risk, but vapour contains far fewer toxicants than smoke and health consequences are rare.

Despite claims, there is insufficient evidence linking youth vaping to significant respiratory issues, the onset of asthma, seizures, pneumothorax, or adolescent brain harm. Nicotine dependence among non-smoking youth remains rare.

Minister Butler stated that youth smoking is rising in Australia, but it is highly unlikely that vaping is the cause. Youth smoking rates are declining in other nations with similar vaping prevalence, down to figures as low as 1.1% in the U.S., 2% in Canada, and 3% in both New Zealand and England,  suggesting alternative regulatory methods could be more effective.

Moreover, vaping is not a “gateway” to smoking as Mr Butler claims. Evidence indicates that it is diverting youth from smoking on a broader scale.

Moreover, vaping trends among teens may be more ephemeral than previously thought. For instance, in the U.S., high school vaping has plummeted by 64% from its peak in 2019. Similarly, there was a 20% decline in Canada from 2019-2022 and possible stabilisation in New Zealand.

The Big Tobacco furphy

Skepticism towards the industry is warranted given its history. Nonetheless, attributing youth vaping in Australia to these companies is inaccurate, as the black market is dominated by products illegally imported from China, not by tobacco companies.

We must do better

Minister Butler’s concern for the welfare of Australia’s youth is shared by many. However, it is critical to strike a balance that protects young Australians from potential harms while recognising the potential of vaping as a harm reduction tool for their parents and grandparents.

By learning from the successful policies of other countries, Australia can craft a more effective strategy. This would not only combat the illegal vape market but also offer a lifeline to older smokers, turning a public health challenge into an huge opportunity.

HEALTH MINISTER MARK BUTLER is rightly concerned that youth smoking has increased substantially on his watch. However, his claim that youth vaping is the cause warrants closer examination.

Recent statistics are indeed troubling, with the smoking rate among 14-17-year-olds climbing to 6.7% in 2022 and 12.8% in early 2023, according to government figures. Concurrently, the vaping rate in this age group stands at 14.5%. The Minister’s view is that vaping has triggered this increase in youth smoking and that more restrictive policies are needed.

However, comparable nations with similar rates of youth vaping have witnessed a substantial decline in youth smoking—down to figures as low as 1.1% in the U.S., 2% in Canada, and 3% in both New Zealand and England

This latest evidence from overseas suggests that a different regulatory approach might yield better outcomes

A moratorium on vaping policy

There are compelling reasons to consider a moratorium on further legislative changes regarding vaping:

Public health before politics

In light of the evidence, it is imperative for policymakers to remain adaptable. The admission of a policy’s shortcomings is not an indication of failure but of commitment to public health. A tightly regulated adult-only consumer model for vaping, underpinned by stringent controls and age restrictions, might represent a more effective strategy moving forward.

National Party leader David Littleproud’s recent admission of his misjudgement regarding the prescription model is commendable. It reflects the kind of responsiveness and humility that should be at the heart of policy-making.

It is time for a policy pivot. By placing public health above political expediency, we can align Australia’s vaping policy with both the latest empirical evidence and international best practice.

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