The owner of another Melbourne vape store, which does not sell disposable vapes, said the changes were a “godsend”, but warned that an underground market had developed, with people selling the products on Facebook and WhatsApp.
“Disposable vapes had a ridiculous level of nicotine and were easily available,” he said.
“There’s a danger now that kids are addicted to disposable vapes and will seek them out through the black market.”
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler said the changes would protect Australians, particularly young people, from the harms of vaping and nicotine dependence, while ensuring those with a legitimate need to access therapeutic vapes could continue.
About one in eight 12- to 15-year-olds and one in five 16- to 17-year-olds had vaped in the past month, according to the latest data from the Australian Secondary Schools Alcohol and Drug survey, with about 80 per cent using disposable vapes.
Nearly a third of students had tried vaping for the first time when they were aged 15 or 16, while 23 per cent of students reported being 12 years or younger, the survey found.
Emily Banks, from the ANU National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health, said the majority of children and teenagers using e-cigarettes had never smoked combustible cigarettes before.
‘Vapes under the pillow’
“Vapes are not a smoking cessation device when used by children and adolescents,” Professor Banks told the Financial Review.
“Addiction is a serious issue. We tend to be flippant about it and say we’re addicted to chocolate or a particular streaming device, but we have kids in Australia who struggle to sit through lessons at school without vaping and who sleep with vapes under their pillow.
“It is a product that has been very aggressively marketed towards children and can set the stage for long-term addiction. So the key is to transition away from the product being widely available to more targeted use for people who have tried other ways to quit smoking unsuccessfully.”
Doctors and nurse practitioners can now prescribe therapeutic vaping products, where clinically appropriate, with the commencement of a special access scheme pathway.
“Vaping is creating a whole new generation of nicotine dependency in our community, especially among young Australians,” Mr Butler said.
“The Albanese government is taking world-leading action to stamp out vaping – to protect a new generation of kids from getting hooked on nicotine. If you vape, this New Year make it your resolution to quit.”
He said health practitioners could play an important role in supporting people to quit smoking and vaping.
The government has committed $29.5 million over four years for specialised programs and health service expansions to meet increased demand to support people to quit smoking and vaping arising from the new tobacco and vaping reforms.
Further measures, including a ban on the personal importation of vapes, will start in March.
Dr Becky Freeman, a public health academic from the University of Sydney who specialises in smoking research, has previously said vapes were likely to be more addictive than cigarettes due to them containing significantly more nicotine.
She said some vapes had a 10,000-puff capacity, meaning they make it much easier to ingest nicotine. By comparison, a 20 pack of cigarettes has about 200 puffs.