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Aussies lose more vaping rights

The Australian province of Queensland will extend restrictions on electronic cigarettes, personal vapourisers, and mods. Beginning with the New Year, they will be treated just like combustible cigarettes. This will mean that they may not be used in any public place where smoking cigarettes is prohibited, they may not be advertised, promoted, or publicly displayed in retail outlets, or (of course) sold to children. Indeed the new law expressly, and of course incorrectly, defines the use of a vapouriser or e-cigarette as "smoking".

Although the new law represents a significantly more restrictive public stance, it is unclear how much actual difference the new law will make, since it is already illegal in Queensland to sell, import, possess, or use e-liquid containing nicotine. "It is an offence in Queensland ..., and carries a maximum penalty of $8,800 for a person to manufacture, obtain, possess, prescribe, dispense, sell, use or destroy nicotine," without express authorization under the Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation. Or destroy?!

This would mean that at present, only e-cigs containing nicotine-free e-liquid are legal to use at all. It would appear that the only additional prohibitions embodied in the new law would be on public use of nicotine-free e-cigs, liquids, and devices for "smoking" them, and on their advertising or sale to minors. Nicotine-containing devices and liquids are already illegal.

This means that the import of the new law is primarily a matter of public relations. Nonetheless, this is significant, since it is feared that the action may set a precedent for the rest of Australia.

It appears that the authorities behind the bill have accepted "hook, line, and sinker," the recent WHO document on vaping, and its background studies, and are unaware of (or unwilling to acknowledge) the serious flaws in data interpretation and presentation with which those studies have been charged. Indeed, the new legislation was rushed through the lower house of the legislature (the only house Queensland has) without any consultation process or review.

Said Health Minister Lawrence Springborg, "These new laws will ensure that e-cigarettes are not sold to children, not smoked in smoke-free indoor and outdoor public places, and not advertised, promoted or displayed at retail outlets." The provincial health honcho also cast doubts on the effectiveness of vaping devices for smoking cessation. "To date, the evidence for limited," he opined, displaying his ignorance of the significant and growing array of studies substantiating their success for quitting.

Officers of the Health Department will be empowered to impose on-the-spot fines up to 220 AUD.

Passage of the bill was heavily lobbied by the Cancer Council of Queensland, whose chief officer Jeff Dunn was quoted to the effect that: "These new laws are an important step toward a smoke-free future and another great step in ensuring the health and safety of Queenslanders in their local communities.”

But many observers see the misinformed legislation, and possible copycat actions in other Australian provinces, as a deterrent to smoking cessation, a restriction of Aussies' right to chose their own smoking cessation method, and a boon to large pharmaceutical companies wishing to protect their own market in (largely ineffective) cessation devices.