According to the NSW Government, those who vape are the same as those who smoke cigarettes. But, with smoking figures down, is it a short-sighted move?
The New South Wales government says it is clearing up the confusion over the legality of vaping across the state.
New laws will soon come into effect which mandates a blanket ban on vaping wherever regular smoking is prohibited, including sporting stadiums, public transport stations, public swimming pools and in the vicinity of playgrounds.
NSW Parliament passed a bill this week facilitating the changes through amendments to the Smoke-Free Environment Act 2000. The ban brings NSW in line with Queensland, Victoria, Tasmania and ACT. Breaching the law will result in a fine of up to $550.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard summed up the new law by saying “Put simply, where you are not allowed to smoke cigarettes, you now cannot vape either.”
The government says its decision is a response to growing health concerns in the community.
It claims there is evidence of potential health risks from second-hand e-cigarette vapours – even if the e-liquid does not contain nicotine. It says vapours can contain toxins such as formaldehyde which is known to cause cancer.
But e-cigarette smokers remain perturbed by the government’s overall stance towards e-cigarettes, which they believe is inconsistent with rules relating to the sale of tobacco.
They point out that tobacco sales provide the government with billions of dollars in revenue each year, and that the main reason heavy restrictions are placed on the sale of e-cigarettes is that only a relatively small number of people use them and they can be harder to tax.
Smokers already pay an average of more than $30 for a packet of cigarettes and, last year, the federal government passed legislation to increase the tax on tobacco by 12.5 percent a year until 2020.
Many health officials have welcomed the new laws, saying the government’s tough anti-smoking prohibitions and media campaigns have proven to be successful at reducing cigarette consumption.
Smoking rates in decline
Which makes the ban puzzling. NSW has seen a reduction from 22.5 percent of adults smoking in 2002 to 15 percent in 2016. The federal government is pushing for further reductions in coming years.
Many believe e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking, and can actually help people to end their habit.
Indeed, smokers have credited e-cigarettes with helping them quit, with figures from overseas suggesting that 6 million smokers in the European Union quit smoking with the assistance of the devices.
With that in mind, many argue that the government’s latest ban may be counterproductive.
It seems to be a case of less smoke, more mirrors.