The Australian city of Melbourne is working to implement new regulation that would prohibit the use of e-cigarettes in the city’s central business district.
In late 2019, when the city banned smoking in some streets, lord mayor Sally Capp said banning vaping was not “part of the policy” at that moment. But the local government soon started to draft new ordinances to extend the definition of smoking to include tobacco-alternative products.
An amendment to the local law on activities and environment, “extending the definition of smoking to include vaping using an e-cigarette”, was put before a city council subcommittee, the Future Melbourne Committee, in early May and has now been passed unanimously.
Capp, who has described the proposal as “law to clear the air on e-cigarettes”, said there was “growing evidence that e-cigarettes can lead young people to start smoking cigarettes”.
Councillors agreed that while e-cigarettes are often promoted to help smokers quit, “health experts agree that there simply isn’t the evidence to support these claims”.
Bourke Street (pictured above), one of Melbourne’s entertainment hubs and a major shopping area, is one of the streets that will be affected by the proposal.
Voices in opposition
Not all the city’s councillors are affiliated with one of Australia’s major political parties. And although the amendment had support across the political spectrum, there has been some resistance.
The Australian Retail Vaping Industry Association (ARVIA) “strongly objected”, sending a letter to councillors arguing that “scientific evidence is conclusive that vaping is not only 95 per cent safer than traditional cigarettes, but there is no health risk to bystanders posed by vape devices”.
At least three Melburnians attended the committee meeting and, during the time allotted to public questions, quizzed members about the evidence for their claims about vaping.
Former city councillor Stephen Mayne said he was surprised the lord mayor was supporting the move “when most of the medical advice is that vaping is an excellent pathway out of smoking and probably, almost, should be encouraged”.
The amendment will now go through a public notice, submissions and assessment process. After that, it will rego before the full City of Melbourne Council for a final vote in the latter half of 2020.
What This Means: Australia’s political and medical establishments continue to take a hard line on vaping, despite the recent shift of the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) towards e-cigarettes.
While there is some acknowledgement that vaping is less harmful than smoking and can be a helpful stepping stone to quitting tobacco, there’s a fear among the political class in the country that normalising vaping may have a range of negative consequences.
– Nigel Bowen ECigIntelligence contributing writer
Photo: Wikimedia Commons