Australia’s world-first vape ban watered down

(Source: Reuters/Sandra Sanders)

Australia will water down a planned world first ban on vaping after opposition from the Greens Party led the government on Monday to agree to amend a bill that would have restricted vapes to those with a doctor’s prescription.

The agreement between the ruling centre-left Labour party and the Greens will see legislation pass later this week that restricts the sale of vapes to pharmacies and removes them from retail shelves, where they have fuelled a boom in youth vaping.

However the bill stops short of the government’s initial ambition to limit sales only to those with a doctor’s prescription, which would have been a world-first. The ammended bill will come into effect on July 1.

Under the compromise deal, first reported by the Sydney Morning Herald, vapes will move “behind the counter” in October and customers will need to have a conversation with the pharmacist before making a purchase. Under-18s will need a prescription.

Health Minister Mark Butler said in a statement that the government “welcomed constructive engagement with the crossbench and secured the support of the Greens for our world leading vaping laws”.

The Labour Party does not have a majority in the upper house and must negotiate with other parties and independent senators to pass legislation.

In a statement, the Greens said they opposed blanket prohibitions and also wanted to remove financial barriers to those seeking to quit smoking, a reference to the cost of visiting a doctor for a prescription.

Already home to some of the strongest anti-smoking laws in the world, Australia banned the import of most vapes earlier this year and limited the number of flavours that can be sold.

About 22 per cent of Australians aged 18-24 have used an e-cigarette or vaping device at least once, data last year showed.

  • Reporting by Lewis Jackson; Editing by Michael Perry, of Reuters.

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