E-CIGARETTES

Wednesday 13 May, 2015

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:15): I also rise today to support the motion for a select committee on e-cigarettes. I note that a committee is very good, however, legislation in this area would be much better. I will refer to what has been done interstate with regard to this matter in just a moment. This is obviously a very serious issue. We on this side of the chamber will not stand in the way of a committee on this issue, I make that very clear. Obviously, there are these e-cigarettes out there, battery-operated devices that sometimes heat a liquid to produce a vapour that users inhale.

Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (11:15): I also rise today to support the motion for a select committee on e-cigarettes. I note that a committee is very good, however, legislation in this area would be much better. I will refer to what has been done interstate with regard to this matter in just a moment. This is obviously a very serious issue. We on this side of the chamber will not stand in the way of a committee on this issue, I make that very clear. Obviously, there are these e-cigarettes out there, battery-operated devices that sometimes heat a liquid to produce a vapour that users inhale.

There is mixed feedback amongst health professionals about the potential risks and potential benefits of these items and they are the subject of much debate by tobacco control and public health experts. Some people claim that these devices assist smokers to quit, others say that their long-term health effects are unknown, and at a community level there is obviously a concern that this does have the aspect of being like a gateway item to cigarettes. I notice that the CEO of the National Health and Medical Research Council has recently said:

There is currently insufficient evidence to conclude whether e-cigarettes can benefit smokers in quitting, or about the extent of their potential harms.

He recommends that

…health authorities act to minimise harm until evidence of safety, quality and efficacy can be produced.

There are a number of current regulations concerning this matter and there may be a case that certain promotions of electronic cigarettes are in breach of the Tobacco Advertising Prohibition Act. In South Australia, specifically to electronic cigarettes, there are no legislative provisions.

I also make the point that the Cancer Council of Australia and the Heart Foundation of Australia have recommended that, given the serious risks in this area, there is sufficient information already to act against these cigarettes in three areas. They suggest: one, ban the retail sale of non-nicotine electronic cigarettes, unless the product has been approved by the TGA; two, ensuring that smoke-free laws in each state and territory cover electronic cigarette use, and; three, prohibiting advertising and promotion of electronic cigarettes, consistent with tobacco advertising prohibitions.

As I alluded to, a committee is good, but legislation is better. The current definition of a tobacco product in the Tobacco Products Regulation Act states that a:

tobacco product means—

(a) a cigarette; or

(b) a cigar; or

(c) cigarette or pipe tobacco; or

(d) tobacco prepared for chewing or sucking; or

(e) snuff; or

(f) any other product containing tobacco of a kind prescribed by regulation; or

(g) any product that does not contain tobacco but is designed for smoking…

Whilst I do not stand in the way of a committee, what this committee may do is look at what has been done interstate. What you will find is that Queensland became the first Australian jurisdiction to regulate e-cigarettes in the same way as tobacco products are regulated. So, if the committee recommended that e-cigarettes be included in that definition, it would fall within the Tobacco Products Regulation Act and, alas, there are requirements for licences in that act, and, alas, there are requirements that surround the sale and promotion of those objects if they are caught within that act. In addition, the act also already captures the sale and promotion to minors. In fact, it is already prohibited. Not only that, section 38A is about sale or supply of tobacco products to children as well.

Whilst we will not on this side of the chamber stand in the way of the committee, a committee is good but legislation is better. What we would call for is for this place to be used in the most efficient way possible and for the taxpayer dollar to be used in the most efficient way possible. I would encourage this committee to look at what has been done interstate in this area already. In New South Wales, legislation has been introduced to ban e-cigarette sales to minors. The sale of electronic cigarettes and accessories, including e-liquids to minors will be banned if a new bill introduced by the government is successful. I notice that Mrs Skinner interstate admits:

What we are seeing in other countries is a sharp rise in the use of e-cigarettes by children and young people.

No doubt this is a massive issue. The Queensland parliament amended the Tobacco and Other Smoking Products Act 1998, the tobacco act, to capture electronic cigarettes as smoking products. Electronic cigarettes will now be subject to the same laws as regular cigarettes from 1 January 2015, and that is a good thing for the committee.

Whilst we are not holding back the committee—we agree with the committee on this side of the chamber—it is positive to see that this research has been done quite recently (we are talking about January) on this area, and I note that other parliaments have, through legislative change, regulated what is a very important topic in the law. I would encourage the committee to look at how Queensland became the first Australian jurisdiction to regulate e-cigarettes.

I would also encourage the committee to look at how New South Wales will ban the sale of electronic nicotine systems to minors. I also encourage the committee to look at what is happening in Western Australia at the moment. In Western Australia, I believe that the Western Australian Supreme Court found that the word 'resemble' includes how a product is used as well as its appearance. I understand that an appeal to this decision was recently lodged with the full bench of the Supreme Court of Western Australia.

The member for Elder makes a number of points on the committee's terms of reference: sale to minors, advertising promotion, use in smoke-free areas, product safety, quality control, and any other relevant matters. We certainly support this motion on this side of the house, but at the same time let us be real about this. What I call for from the health minister, if he is serious about this issue, is legislative change. If he is serious about e-cigarettes and regulating them, let us see legislative change, just like the health ministers of New South Wales, Queensland and Western Australia. We do not hold back—we support the committee—but we need legislative change as well.

I am hoping that, when this committee takes place, that it has regard to what has already been done interstate, as I alluded to, as early as January. In saying that, I am sure a number of positives will come out of this committee, so it is with those few comments that I hope I have been clear that I support the member for Elder's motion. However, in many respects we may not have to reinvent the wheel because legislative change has been made in New South Wales, it has been made in Queensland, and it has been made in Western Australia so, rather than just a committee, we need more than a committee: we need this committee to provide fruitful results, and I hope that will result in legislative change that addresses this very important issue because it is an important issue.

As we have heard from other speakers before us, it is very important that we get this issue right and that the law is adopted and amended to reflect new technology, just like we would in any other area where new technology is available. I support the motion before the house.