E-Cigarettes | Motion

Ms VAGHELA (Western Metropolitan) (12:50): I rise to speak on Mr Limbrick’s motion on vaping. Each year smoking takes 4400 Victorian lives. Those are too many lives lost. Along with the social and emotional impacts, it also creates economic impact. It costs about $3.7 billion in tangible costs, including over $600 million in healthcare costs. There has been considerable progress in recent times—smoking has become less acceptable socially, for the good. However, smoking remains the leading risk factor for chronic diseases, including cancer, heart and lung disease and stroke.

The government wants to reduce the impact of smoking on the community. We want to protect the health and wellbeing of all Victorians. The smoking rate among adults in Victoria has been steadily declining, which is good news. There are similar trends across the country. According to Cancer Council Victoria, in 2013, 13.5 per cent of the Victorian population were daily smokers. This has decreased to 10.6 per cent in 2019. Overall smoking rates among Victorian teenagers are also reducing. This shows that our efforts to help people and to stop teenagers taking up smoking are working, and they are working right across Victoria.

The Andrews Labor government has been taking many progressive stances. We are never afraid to lead the nation, and even the world in some instances, when it comes to good policy. It is the health of our children that we have to think about. That is why we have the current policy on e-cigarettes. Big tobacco companies could be promoting e-cigarettes to get people addicted to nicotine. Big tobacco companies know that old-school cigarettes are not being taken up by young people, so they are trying to come up with newer things like vaping and e-cigarettes. Once people are addicted to nicotine they could end up smoking cigarettes.

E-cigarettes are very new products. They are not risk free or safe. We do not know what their long-term impact is. People who use e-cigarettes or people who vape tend to be younger people. Vaping devices and e-cigarettes are marketed in dodgy ways to younger people through social media. The debate regarding the public harms and perceived benefits of e-cigarettes is still ongoing. The long-term safety and health effects associated with e-cigarette use and exposure to second-hand vapour are unknown. There is inconclusive evidence regarding the efficacy of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid as well. We do not know if it is a good way for people to stop smoking. There is not enough data. There are no definitive answers yet. The science is furiously contested.

The biggest players in the vaping business are the major tobacco companies. They realise the potential, and they are more than happy to take advantage of younger people. Big tobacco companies have always used deceitful and insidious marketing techniques. They use sneaky tactics to target and sell their products. Our government does not want to renormalise smoking behaviours and nicotine addiction for the next generation. The Victorian drugs, poisons and controlled substances laws, together with commonwealth legislation, effectively prohibit the sale of liquid nicotine in and for use in e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers.

This is because nicotine is listed as a dangerous poison in the poisons standard. These laws mean that adults in Victoria can buy and use e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine. Based on current evidence and expert advice the government has taken a safety-first approach in line with other jurisdictions. The advertising, sale and use of e-cigarette devices is now regulated in the same manner as tobacco products to minimise potential harms.

Since 1 August 2017 the Andrews Labor government’s amendments to the Tobacco Act 1987 banning smoking in outdoor dining areas has been in place. This ban covers all outdoor dining areas at restaurants, cafes, takeaway shops and licensed premises. Outdoor dining areas typically include eating areas on footpaths, balconies and in courtyards as well as at food fairs and outdoor events where food is sold. These laws were the logical next step in the introduction of smoke-free areas in Victoria. They balance the need for public health reform and consistency between states, while providing flexibility to businesses as to how they use their outdoor areas.

While Victoria has a broad range of smoke-free areas, we are actively seeking to reduce smoking by investing in programs to support Victorians to quit smoking. Currently the Victorian government invests around $9 million annually in a comprehensive range of tobacco control measures, which include anti-smoking campaigns integrated across television, radio, print and social media; the operation of Quitline, a telephone-based smoking cessation support service; population surveys of smoking prevalence and behaviours; and programs to address smoking in high-prevalence populations, embedding smoking cessation support into routine care within public hospitals. The reduction in smokers in Victoria is very good news, and it has been a very intensive campaign.

The cigarette market around the world is increasing despite advances and reforms. A few decades ago there were studies that showed that smoking was safe, but when the truth was exposed, governments globally had to take swift action. We want to take the safety-first approach. The Therapeutic Goods Administration, TGA, Australia’s medicine and poison regulator, is responsible for approving therapeutic products like smoking cessation aids. Approved products are included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. The TGA has approved nicotine-replacement therapy, NRT, products such as patches, gum and lozenges as smoking cessation aids. This means that NRT products have been assessed for efficacy and safety and are included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. The TGA has not approved any e-cigarette or e-liquid containing nicotine as a therapeutic product smoking cessation aid to help smokers quit. The Victorian government has funded Quit Victoria to provide expert advice and support to anyone wanting to quit smoking. Anyone wishing to quit smoking can call Quitline to access personalised counselling.

The latest research shows that counselling in combination with quitting medication can maximise the chance of successfully quitting. This approach strikes the right balance between the perceived potential benefits of e-cigarette use for current smokers as a cessation aid against the potential risks for the whole community, particularly young people. Too many Victorians still die from smoking, but we want to continue—

The PRESIDENT: Order! I have to interrupt the house for a lunchbreak.

Sitting suspended 12.59 pm until 2.05 pm.

Ms VAGHELA: I will continue my contribution on Mr Limbrick’s motion on vaping. Too many Victorians still die from smoking, but we want to continue reducing the normalisation of smoking for all Victorians. The current laws reduce the exposure, particularly of children and young people, to e-cigarette marketing and the potential harms from e-cigarette use and risk of poisoning. While publicly stating that e-cigarettes are only for adults wishing to quit smoking, the e-cigarette industry continues to develop and sell products with novelty features and sweet confectionery flavours that make them particularly attractive and palatable to young people willing to experiment. The growing uptake in e-cigarette use, including alarming evidence of increasing use by young people and people who have never been smokers, only reinforces the need for e-cigarette products containing nicotine to be tightly controlled.

The 2019 national drug strategy household survey showed that nearly two in three current smokers and one in five non-smokers aged 18 to 24 reported having tried e-cigarettes. The results of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s 2019 national drug strategy household survey, which Mr Limbrick refers to in his motion, show that the percentage of Victorians who are daily smokers almost halved between 2001 and 2019, from 19.2 per cent to 10.2 per cent. This reflects the success of Victoria’s robust anti-smoking laws and commitment to reducing the widespread harm caused by tobacco. However, the fact remains that nicotine is a highly addictive and dangerous substance and needs to be tightly regulated. I would like to conclude my contribution.