Loosening the reins on e-cigarette regulation could “reglamourise” smoking, Ballarat Community Health says.
The lucrative e-cigarette industry – backed by tobacco giant Philip Morris – was this week accused of co-ordinating “pro-vaping” submissions to a parliamentary probe into the use and marketing of e-cigarettes.
Victorian laws introduced earlier this year treat e-cigarettes the same way as tobacco products, outlawing vaping in smoke free spaces and banning e-cigarette advertising in stores and sales to children under 18. State laws to take effect on August 1 will ban both vaping and smoking in the state’s outdoor dining areas.
The sale and personal possession of nicotine e-cigarettes is illegal in Australia but common overseas, where it has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry.
Ballarat Community Health (BCH) health promotion manager Louise Feery said links between vaping and smoking cessation were unproven, and the long term health effects of vaping were also unknown.
“The thing that really worries us is that the tobacco companies are the ones that are promoting the electronic cigarettes and they’ve got a vested interest in promoting smoking behaviour and vaping mimics smoking behaviour. It also appears that the marketing and promotion of vaping is particularly targeted at young people.”
Ms Feery said action to reduce smoking levels “had to happen collectively”. Ballarat’s most recent smoking statistics continue to show a downward trend, with 15 per cent of Ballarat residents identifying as smokers in a 2015 Vic Health survey – down from more than 20 per cent five years ago.
“Often real cultural change happens when it comes from changes in legislation, such as the plain label cigarette packaging, smoke free workplaces, banning smoking in outdoor areas and consistent messaging and support from health professionals.”
Philip Morris spokesman Patrick Muttart told Fairfax Media the company was committed "to converting the world's ... smokers to smoke-free alternatives".
Want help and support to quit? Visit bchc.org.au.