ACT to ban sale of vaporisers to under 18s and treat vaporisers like cigarettes

The ACT government will restrict the sale of e-cigarettes and vaporisers, banning their sale to under 18s and treating them like tobacco.

A bill to be introduced by ACT Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris on Thursday treats vaporisers, whether or not they contain nicotine, like tobacco – with the same restrictions on where and how they can be used and sold, and the same penalties.

The ACT will treat e-cigarettes like tobacco, including banning them indoors and for sale to under 18s.

Vaporisers containing nicotine are already illegal in the ACT and elsewhere, but the new bill covers any kind of vaporiser or "vaporiser related product".

When the laws take effect, expected to be in the second half of the year, vaporisers will be banned at all public places where cigarettes are banned, including shopping centres, cinemas, office buildings, buses, taxis, restaurants, pubs and clubs, outdoor bars and restaurants, and underage music functions.

Health Minister Meegan Fitzharris wants to stop the widespread uptake of vaporisers, particularly among children.

Photo: Jamila Toderas

The bill clarifies the definition of tables and chairs to ensure it covers outdoor bars and eateries that might only have chairs not tables, not both, including stand-up tables, or milk-crate "chairs".

It will be illegal to use a vaporiser in a car where children under 16 are present, whether or not it contains nicotine.

It will also be illegal to supply a vaporiser to an under 18-year-old and to sell vaporisers by vending machine.

The sale and import of food and toys that resemble vaporisers will be banned, and the minister will have the power to declare a vaporiser to be a prohibited smoking product if the smoke has "a distinctive fruity, sweet or confectionary-like character and the product or its packaging may be attractive to children".

The definition of "smoke" is expanded to include vapour from a personal vaporiser.

Like cigarettes, the laws would ban the display of vaporisers in shops, and ban advertising and promotion of vaporisers, or their use in reward schemes, competitions, sponsorships or giveaways.

Shops selling them must hold a tobacco licence.

Ms Fitzharris said the bill was designed to prevent the widespread uptake of personal vaporisers, including by non-smokers and children, while still allowing adults to buy personal vaporisers that don't contain nicotine from licensed tobacco sellers. It would reduce the risk of personal vaporisers acting as a gateway to tobacco.

Some vaporisers looked like cigarettes or pipes and others like lipsticks, pens or other everyday items.

The law deliberately defines the devices widely, using the term "personal vaporiser or personal vaporiser related product" instead of e-cigarette to ensure it captures different kinds of devices on the market and any new devices developed in the future, and to not just e-cigarettes.

The inclusion of "personal vaporiser related products" in the definition is designed to prevent shops from selling all the components of a vaporiser separately.

Oxygen tanks and breathing apparatuses such as those used by divers and fire fighters are excluded, as are asthma inhalers or nasal decongestant inhalers.

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