Ms Patten (Northern Metropolitan) — My question is for the Minister for Health, represented by Minister Mikakos. Yesterday the government introduced a bill to regulate the sale, promotion and use of e-cigarette products. Health minister Jill Hennessy has said that by bringing e-cigarettes into line with all tobacco products, the government is taking action to protect children from potential harm. Yet e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco or even nicotine. In fact unlike every other country in the world, the supply, possession or use of e-cigarettes that contain nicotine is illegal in Victoria. This is not about protecting children by restricting a product that the Royal College of Physicians in the UK says is far safer than smoking; the college itself encourages the widespread use of e-cigarettes to reduce smoking. Given that e-cigarettes have proved to be effective in helping many people give up smoking, could the minister outline why this legislation is necessary?
Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I thank Ms Patten for her important question. I advise her that I will be providing an answer to her by taking her question on notice. I will provide her with an answer through that mechanism.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) — A wise person told me that it is question time, not answer time, so it has been very good today
An honourable member — Who was it?
Ms PATTEN — A former minister. I have been contacted by a number of industry associations and academics who have a real interest in these products, and they tell me that they have not been part of any process to draw up the legislation. There has been no consultation whatsoever. I hear that Cancer Council Victoria has been pushing this legislation along. Recently its chief executive, Todd Harper, said:
What regulation does is help to set very clear community standards, particularly in relation to health and safety.
Can the minister outline what consultation has taken place with industry associations, with the industry itself and with academics who have written in this area in relation to the forthcoming legislative changes?
Ms MIKAKOS (Minister for Families and Children) — I thank Ms Patten again for her supplementary question. I will take that question on notice and provide her with a response through that mechanism.
RESPONSE TO SUBSTANTIVE QUESTION:
The marketing and use of e-cigarettes has the potential to undermine the work that has been done to date to denormalise smoking, particularly for children and young people, who are susceptible to advertising and marketing.
In line with the approach in other states and territories, the Victorian Government is taking a precautionary response by regulating e-cigarettes in the same manner as tobacco products. This approach will minimise potential harms, especially those arising from children accessing e-cigarettes and being exposed to e-cigarette marketing.
The regulation of e-cigarettes is supported by the Australian Medical Association, the Cancer Council Victoria, Quit and the Heart Foundation.
While the sale of e-cigarettes that contain nicotine will remain illegal in Victoria, the reforms will not prevent adults purchasing and using non-nicotine e-cigarettes from retail outlets and using them in the community.
The government’s response is flexible and can accommodate possible future developments and evidence in e-cigarette safety and efficacy.
I am advised that if a particular brand of e-cigarette is approved as a smoking cessation aid by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, it can be excluded from the restrictions.
RESPONSE TO SUPPLEMENTARY QUESTION:
In November and December 2015, as part of a review of the Tobacco Act 1987, targeted consultation was undertaken with a range of stakeholders with an interest in Victorian tobacco legislation. This process included consultation about e-cigarettes.
I am advised that participants included representatives from large and small scale retailers, local government, unions, public health bodies, the hospitality industry, and various government agencies.