Greens leader Adam Bandt denies his party watered down government’s vaping laws

Greens leader Adam Bandt denies his party watered down government’s vaping laws
  • PublishedJune 25, 2024

Greens leader Adam Bandt says his party’s successful push to amend the government’s new vaping laws is because his party is against “prohibition” of certain drugs and does not amount to watering down the proposal.

The Albanese government struck a deal with the minor party late yesterday which will allow its world-first legislation curbing the sale of vapes to pass parliament later this week and come into force in a manner of months.

Vapes will only be able to be sold in pharmacies, with plain packaging and flavouring restrictions.

But in a departure from its original plan to restrict sales of vapes to only people with a prescription obtained through a GP, the government will allow any adult to purchase vapes from a chemist without a script.

“History is replete with examples of politicians telling adults not to use certain drugs, only to find that that doesn’t actually fix the problem,” Mr Bandt told the ABC’s RN Breakfast.

“The second motivation for us is that we said there is a real public health problem, and especially amongst children — the kind of flavoured vapes that children have been using, they’re meant to [be] deliberately marketed to children — for us was something that we really wanted to tackle.

“But we wanted to make sure that it was treated as a health issue and kept out of the criminal justice system.”

Mr Bandt said the deal struck the right balance, and believed it will help to stop kids taking up vaping.

“Some of the flavours that have been marketed at kids — your unicorn, bubble gum and so on — they’ll no longer be available.

“Certainly children, but in general, the only way that you’re going to be able to get them is through a chemist.

“And for children under 18, if there are children under 18 who have perhaps become addicted to who now want to get off, they would need a prescription.”

The Pharmacy Guild has railed against the deal, likening it to turning pharmacists into tobacconists.

“Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who dispense medication that provides a proven therapeutic benefit,” a Guild spokesperson said on Monday.

“No vaping product has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration based on its safety, efficacy or performance.

“Vaping has long-term patient harms, including cancer, lung-scarring and nicotine addiction… the Senate’s expectation that community pharmacies become vape retailers, and vape garbage collectors, is insulting.”

But Mr Bandt argued the change would benefit pharmacists.

“In many respects this will actually involve a lesser burden on pharmacists — they don’t have to dispense a prescription, they have to have a conversation with someone who comes into the store,” he said.

“They were going to have a role, they are still going to have a role.”

The Nationals agreed with the Guild, criticising the government’s model.

“This is a classic case of the Labor Party trying to hide behind the white coat of the local pharmacists in this vain attempt to try and get vapes out of the hands of our children and out of our schools,” the party’s Senate leader Bridget McKenzie told Channel Nine.

A man viewed through a partially open door.
Health Minister Mark Butler reached a compromise with the Greens on vaping laws.(ABC News: Nick Haggarty)

Not ideal but still a win, says government

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler will address the media about the deal later this morning.

His Cabinet colleague Tanya Plibersek conceded it was not the government’s ideal proposal, but argued it will still be effective.

“Do we prefer our original package? Of course we do,” Ms Plibersek told the ABC’s News Breakfast.

“But this whole package is absolutely world leading, and I think just as Australia led the world on plain packaging for tobacco, we’ll be leading the world on turning around this trend of more and more young people getting hooked on nicotine.

“Pharmacists have very important health conversations with their customers all the time, about vapes in this instance but about things like the morning after pill.

“These vapes will be behind the counter, they’ll be treated in the same way as some of those stronger medications.”


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