Mr TARZIA (Hartley) (16:38): I rise today to speak to the Tobacco Products Regulation (E-Cigarette Regulation) Amendment Bill 2017 and indicate that I will be the lead speaker on this side of the chamber.
As we know, e-cigarettes are battery-operated devices that vaporise a solution into a fine aerosol that is inhaled into the lungs in a similar way to cigarettes. In 2016, only 1.3 per cent of those surveyed in South Australia were users of electronic cigarettes, but around 30 per cent were cigarette smokers. Currently, South Australia does not have legislation, as we are aware, that regulates the sale, use and promotion of e-cigarettes which do not contain nicotine and which do not resemble a tobacco product.
These products may be legally sold or supplied to children at the moment, which is wrong and which is what we are trying to correct. They can be advertised and displayed. They can also be used in enclosed public spaces. It is not illegal to market non-nicotine electronic cigarettes with therapeutic claims. In Queensland, there is regulation of e-cigarettes in the same way as for other tobacco products. In New South Wales, they have actually banned the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, and I understand the Western Australian government has successfully prosecuted an e-cigarette retailer for selling a vaporiser that looked like a tobacco product.
In 2014, a select committee of the House of Assembly was established to inquire into and examine possible legislative restrictions on e-cigarettes. The final report tabled in February 2016 presented 20 recommendations relating to the sale, display, advertising and use of e-cigarettes. In the past, you would note, Deputy Speaker, that I introduced a bill that sought to prevent children accessing e-cigarette products. I think it is imperative that we prevent children from accessing e-cigarettes. This is consistent with current legislation proposed. The government voted down the bill in early 2017. The government then introduced the Tobacco Production Regulation (E-Cigarette Regulation) Amendment Bill 2017 on 18 May, some 15 months after the tabling of the final report.
Obviously the potential risks and also potential benefits of e-cigarettes are currently disputed among tobacco control and public health experts. Some argue that e-cigarettes have the potential to reduce the number of smoking-related deaths and diseases by assisting smokers to quit or by providing a safer, less toxic alternative to tobacco cigarettes. However, some experts argue that the long-term health effects are unknown, which is why we need careful regulation in this area.
At a community level, there is concern that the potential benefits to smokers are outweighed by the risks posed by widespread e-cigarette use within the community. For example, we do not want to make it socially acceptable again to smoke, especially for young people. It is imperative that we send the right message to young people: that smoking is not good and it should not be done. There are also concerns that this does provide a gateway into nicotine addiction and tobacco cigarette smoking. Also, if the area is not properly regulated, it can undermine the regulation of smoke-free environments.
The World Health Organization concluded in it substantive report in 2014, which was updated in August 2016, that the evidence for the safety of e-cigarettes and their capacity to aid smoking cessation has not been established. The National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) concurs with this conclusion. The CEO of the NHMRC has actually said:
There is currently insufficient evidence to conclude whether e-cigarettes can benefit smokers in quitting, or about the extent of their potential harms. It is recommended that health authorities act to minimise harm until evidence of safety, quality and efficacy can be produced. NHMRC is currently funding research into the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation.
In the past, health organisations, such as the Cancer Council SA, Heart Foundation (SA Branch), Asthma SA and the Australian Medical Association, have sought a complete ban on e-cigarettes, but I understand that they are supportive of elements of the bill nonetheless. E-cigarettes are still a relatively new product on the market, and we would be ignorant if we thought that they were not out there, because they are. Much is still unknown about the short-term and long-term effects of the health outcomes associated with exposure to e-cigarettes, their components and associated aerosols. I was taught to be cautious, and I think it is wise to be cautious in this regard.
Whilst we are not proposing to ban the products, it is responsible to regulate them. As such, the bill seeks to regulate e-cigarettes in a similar way to tobacco products by amending the Tobacco Products Regulation Act 1997 and to introduce a range of measures to regulate the sale, supply and use of e-cigarettes. The bill seeks to regulate e-cigarettes in a very similar way to Queensland, New South Wales and the ACT and proposed legislation in Victoria and Tasmania, which I think we have proposed in the past, and also to regulate e-cigarettes in a manner that is consistent with many of the select committee recommendations. I know that some of the committee's recommendations have not been proposed. Perhaps the minister could elaborate on why he felt a certain way about certain recommendations. Now it seems that the government has changed its mind on some of these recommendations. I look forward to hearing the minister's comments.
Overall, we are supportive of the amendment bill. Perhaps a topic for future discussion is that while this bill does seek to regulate e-cigarettes, there are other products out there in the market. What we have seen is that part of the industry will always find another way to get around current regulation. We had cigarettes: they move to e-cigarettes. We regulate e-cigarettes: they will go to another product. I already see from doing a quick Google search that there are different products out there. Now there are even heated tobacco products.
The point I am making is that while we are doing everything we can as regulators to regulate e-cigarettes, what about heated tobacco products? I understand that there are heating tobacco products out there. While the idea of heating tobacco instead of burning it has been around for more than two decades, it is only now that companies have found a way to heat tobacco that results in a product that is satisfying to some of these users. What has happened is that these companies are able to actually heat the tobacco products in a distinct way.
One product I have seen on the internet actually uses an electronically controlled heater; another uses a carbon heat source. I think it is a topic for another day, perhaps in the other place. There should also be regard to these other products that are now ahead of the curve. With those remarks, I am grateful that the government has finally come on board to regulate a part of the market whose products we know are accessible to children at the moment. That is completely unacceptable. We want to set the right example for children, which is why we need to create a strong regulatory framework in this area. I look forward to hearing the minister's remarks and I commend the bill to the house.