Smoke Free Illawarra has welcomed new rules which will see e-cigarette users fined up to $500 for vaping in public places.
The NSW Parliament has passed legislation that brings the rules around vaping in public areas and on public transport into line with traditional cigarettes.
Maddison Stratten is a spokeswoman for Smoke Free Illawarra (SFI), a local action group that aims to reduce the harm from smoking tobacco in the region.
However the group also holds concerns about what’s in e-cigarettes – and whether smoking them can lead to a regular smoking habit.
“The recent legislation around e-cigs in public spaces and on public transport is welcomed,” Ms Stratten said.
“Some evidence is growing around the gateway effect for e-cigs leading to traditional tobacco cigarette smoking in young people.
“There is no guarantee what’s in the vapour - it may be toxic and contain nicotine which is harmful for the body.
“So, the need to regulate e-cigs is important. SFI endorse the NSW Government in taking a step, protecting our young people.”
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that the Smoke-free Environment Amendment Bill 2018 would come into effect in July, and would match laws in most other states.
“The new laws do not ban people from using e-cigarettes,” he said. “Put simply, where you are not allowed to smoke cigarettes, you now cannot vape either.
“Despite claims to the contrary, the jury is still out on the alleged benefits of e-cigarettes. The medical advice from Australian authorities is we need to err on the side of caution.
“The NSW Government is acting now to protect vulnerable bystanders from passive exposure to vapour and if you snub these new laws you risk fines of up to $550.”
Chief Health Officer Dr Kerry Chant said there was evidence of potential health risks from e-cigarette vapours, even when there was no illegal nicotine in the e-liquid.
“E-cigarette vapours can contain chemicals, toxins and metals, and some of these substances, like formaldehyde, are already known to cause cancer,” he said.
“The National Health and Medical Research Council states e-cigarettes expose both users and bystanders to very small particles which may worsen existing illnesses or increase the risk of developing cardiovascular or respiratory disease.”
The Therapeutic Goods Administration has not approved any e-cigarette product as an aid to help with quitting smoking.
The new legislation also requires e-cigarettes retailers to notify NSW Health they are selling such products, as tobacco retailers are already required to do.