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Parliamentary committee delivers 20 recommendations on e-cigarettes

E-CIGARETTES should be banned in non-smoking areas and retailers should not be allowed to sell the vaporisers to children, a parliamentary committee recommends.

Vaporisers also should feature health warnings and should not be decorated with “child-like aspects such as diamantés and cartoon characters” which may encourage young people to take up the habit of “vaping”.

For the same reason, the committee also urges against selling “sweet and confectionery flavoured e-liquids” to be used in the vaporisers.

It is believed about 20,100 South Australians use e-cigarettes — or about 1.2 per cent of the population — and the devices are growing in popularity.

The battery-operated devices vaporise a refillable cartridge of nicotine solution to create a vapour that the user inhales, simulating the action of smoking.

Some use flavoured liquids without nicotine.

E-cigarettes have been sold in Australia for about four years but legislation governing their sale and use varies around the nation.

Concerned at the confusion around the relatively new products, and the potential long-term health risks, Labor MP Annabel Digance moved in May to establish a Select Committee into E-Cigarettes.

The final report of the committee, tabled in Parliament today, makes 20 recommendations including:

BANNING e-cigarettes in areas where tobacco smoking is banned.
PREVENTING the sale of e-cigarettes to people aged under 18.
REQUIRING health warnings on e-cigarette devices and full lists of ingredients on e-liquid packaging.
REQUIRING childproof packaging on e-liquid containers.
BANNING advertising of e-cigarettes or offering pricing specials or promotions.
CALLING for more research on the effects of e-cigarettes on users, including pregnant women and foetuses, infants and children and people with respiratory illness or chronic illness.

Health Minister Jack Snelling has pledged to consider the recommendations in any future regulation of e-cigarettes.

There is strong debate over whether vaporisers encourage the habit of smoking or help people to quit by simulating the action without delivering the chemicals.

“We just don’t know whether e-cigarettes are effective in helping people to quit smoking without causing potentially new damaging health effects,” Ms Digance said.

She added that it was “unclear whether e-cigarettes could act as a gateway into smoking and nicotine dependence for our young people”.

“The younger a person starts smoking the more difficult it can be to quit later on,” Ms Digance said.

“While studies are under way to explore the health effects of e-cigarettes, it will be some time, possibly decades, before we really understand how they affect a person’s health.

“The World Health Organisation is calling on governments to regulate e-cigarettes until the safety of the devices and their peripheral components, such as the vaporised solution contained within them, are established.”

Opposition committee member Vincent Tarzia raised concerns that some of the recommendations would diminish the potential harm minimisation benefits of e-cigarettes.

“The research is clear that e-cigarettes are far less dangerous than smoking tobacco and there is a public health benefit if people choose to use e-cigarettes instead of smoking tobacco,” Mr Tarzia said.

“As a consequence there is a public health benefit if tobacco smokers are switching to e-cigarettes and any new regulations should not hinder that movement.

“The report’s recommendation that e-cigarettes shouldn’t be sold alongside tobacco products has the potential to undercut this public health benefit.”

Mr Tarzia supported calls for more research on the long-term health impacts of using the vaporisers.

The committee received 142 submissions and took evidence from 11 people, including from tobacco companies, e-cigarette retailers and users, and tobacco smokers.

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