As a nurse who started work in the 1980's, I have seen the debilitating health effects of long-term smoking. I've seen people struggle with emphysema, lung cancer, heart disease and many more die too early.
Over the same time I've also seen the marked change in behaviours and perceptions around smoking from preventative health campaigns and initiatives. From sitting in smoke-filled bars and workplaces in the 1980's, to the 2020's where now just over 10% of Queensland adults smoke daily, our efforts to educate about the risks of smoking and reduce the rates of smoking are an incredible public health achievement and societal shift.
While this is amazing progress, we do not want to repeat the same trajectory over the next 30 years for vaping. This is what I hear resoundingly from my community.
In a survey conducted within the Greenslopes Electorate, over 87% of respondents were concerned about the potential health risks of regular-cigarette use and 76% of respondents wanted tighter restrictions and enforcement on the sale of vaping products. 71% even wanted the Federal Government to restrict the marketing of vaping products.
This is why the Palaszczuk State and Albanese Federal Governments have taken strong action against vaping.
Recently the Queensland Parliament’s Health and Environment Committee performed tests that analysed the chemical composition of 17 e-liquid samples currently available on the Queensland market.
Lab tests were performed for the presence of nicotine plus other substances including carbonyl compounds, volatile organic compounds, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides, heavy metals and found:
- All samples tested positive for nicotine.
- The nicotine content ranged from trace levels (less than 200 mg/kg) to 47,000 mg/kg. All samples contained at least two carbonyl compounds: formaldehyde and acetaldehyde. Formaldehyde is classified as a group 1 human carcinogen.
- All samples contained Volatile Organic Compounds. VOCs are typically used in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals and refrigerants.
- All samples contained arsenic and zinc. Other toxic heavy metals included lead, mercury, nickel, chromium, antimony, aluminium, iron, nickel, barium, manganese, copper, strontium and vanadium.
These results showed a number of carcinogenic and toxic chemicals in these products, and also despite strict State laws preventing the sale of nicotine vapes without prescription, vapes containing nicotine were readily available to Queenslanders and most worryingly, children.
Encouragingly the Federal Albanese Government is working with States to begin implementing stronger regulation and enforcement of all e-cigarettes, including new controls on their importation, contents and packaging.
The Government will work with states and territories to stamp out the growing black market in illegal vaping, including to:
- stop the import of non-prescription vapes;
- increase the minimum quality standards for vapes including by restricting flavours, colours, and other ingredients;
- require pharmaceutical-like packaging;
- reduce the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes; and
- ban all single use, disposable vapes.
The Federal Government will also work with states and territories to close down the sale of vapes in retail settings, ending vape sales in convenience stores and other retail settings, while also making it easier to get a prescription for legitimate therapeutic use.