The new government report has 14 recommendations for addressing vaping problems – but not all committee members agreed.
The establishment of a taskforce, subsidised medicines, specialised support for young people and funding for more research into e-cigarette use are among a raft of recommendations handed down by a Queensland Parliamentary committee yesterday.
The Queensland Parliamentary Health and Environment Committee made 14 recommendations as part of its report on vaping in the Sunshine State.
Thuringowa MP and committee chair Aaron Harper said in the report’s foreword that extensive community consultation had confirmed “there is no doubt that vaping is having a very concerning health impact on young people in Queensland communities”.
“A concerted joint effort between the Commonwealth and state is required to shut down the illegal selling of vapes that are impacting our young people, who perhaps cannot see the ongoing health risks as this trend continues,” he wrote.
“As Chair, I echo the view of Queensland’s Chief Health Officer, Dr John Gerrard – now is the time to act – if not we will face a generation of nicotine-addicted adults in the years to come. We have an absolute responsibility to address this issue now.”
Professor Simone Pettigrew, of the George Institute for Global Health, welcomed the report’s recommendations, telling Health Services Daily that while there weren’t any “big surprises” it was pleasing to see the committee supported the need for tighter controls, research, education and addiction treatment strategies.
She particularly supported the focus on community awareness and making sure public health messaging clearly explained why vaping is a problem. She said schools were in desperate need of more assistance in this area.
“Our work has shown that it’s endemic in schools as has other people’s [research],” she said.
“That’s a more confined environment where you might be able to make some headway by resourcing the schools properly and giving them the resources they need, both in terms of policies and to support services around cessation.”
The report said research had found vaping rates among high school students was “incredibly high” and was established “normalised behaviour”.
Professor Pettigrew said one of the main problems of illegal vape devices was the massive amounts of nicotine they could deliver.
“Some of them have got 3500 puffs for bugger all money, so, in a lunch hour they [young people] can vape the equivalent one or two packets of cigarettes quite easily.
“The intake can be so high that they will need quite personalised treatment to try and get them off [using vapes]. The developing brain is very receptive to nicotine, so it becomes more addicted more easily than an adult.
“Their brain development has been altered by their exposure to this level of nicotine so that they’re going to be addicted to nicotine for the rest of their lives that just need some really good assistance to try and deal with that.”
The committee’s recommendations include:
- The government investigate establishing a joint task force involving Queensland and Commonwealth agencies with the primary objective of ending the illegal retail supply of e-cigarettes, including online, especially to people under the age of 18.
- The government fund on-going research and data collection to obtain evidence of e-cigarette use in Queensland, to support the development of targeted preventive activities, programs, and support services.
- The government fund on-going research, undertaken in partnership with Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities, into e-cigarette use by Queensland’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples.
- The government cooperate with the Australian Government and all state and territory governments, in a national health campaign to inform the public of the facts about the potential risks of using e-cigarettes.
- The Department of Education assess the adequacy of the current vaping education resources for schools and supplement them where required to ensure that Queensland’s schools have access to a package of high-quality, evidence-informed, age-appropriate teaching resources, as well as access to professional training to assist in delivering the program effectively.
- The Department of Education and Queensland Health prepare guidelines for all Queensland schools on interventions, such as interactive online courses, that can be used as an educative alternative for students found vaping or with vaping products, rather than pursuing punitive outcomes such as suspension.
- The Department of Education and Queensland Health prepare guidelines for all Queensland schools for identifying and supporting students who are nicotine dependent, including the use of support services and referrals to help students to quit vaping.
- The government support the implementation of measures, as proposed by the Australian Government, to stop the importation of non-prescription e-cigarettes, increase the minimum quality standards for e-cigarettes including by restricting flavours, colours, and other ingredients, require pharmaceutical-like packaging, reduce allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes, ban all single use, disposable e-cigarettes, end the sale of e-cigarettes in retail settings, such as convenience stores and other retailers, and make it easier to get a prescription for legitimate therapeutic use of e-cigarettes.
- Queensland Health assess the availability and capacity of services to support people to quit e-cigarettes and consider additional resourcing for these services.
- Queensland Health collaborate with health departments in other Australian jurisdictions and Quit Victoria to facilitate the development of a specialised service to provide tailored support to young people who want to stop vaping.
- The government consider extending the capacity of the Quitline service in Queensland, including to provide for engagement of additional counsellors with youth experience.
- The government consider a program to supply nicotine replacement therapy at reduced cost to people who want to quit tobacco products or e-cigarettes.
- The government assess workforce requirements and assign necessary resources to support compliance monitoring and enforcement activities relating to e-cigarettes under the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998 and the Medicines and Poisons Act 2019.
- The government investigate the feasibility of introducing a return and recycling scheme for vaping products and the introduction of product design requirements that would facilitate recycling and/or safe disposal of e-cigarettes and their batteries.
Not all members of the committee were in complete agreement with the recommendations. Deputy Chair and Southport MP Rob Molhoek issued a statement of reservation in the report, particularly around recommendations six, seven and eight.
“While there are many recommendations which I support in our attempts to reduce the rates of e-cigarette use in Queensland, such as recovery and management programs; there are a number of recommendations which I believe will be harmful to these attempts,” he said.
“Guided by my personal values of individual liberty, limited government intervention, and the pursuit of policies rooted in both historical lessons and practical realities, I feel compelled to give an alternate view to the outcomes of the report that balance the individual liberty and personal choice of all Queenslanders, while attempting to address a significant public health challenge.”