30 November 2022

RACGP backs nicotine product reforms

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has warmly welcomed the federal Government’s new nicotine product control measures.

It comes following the Health and Aged Care Minister Mark Butler announcing numerous reforms amidst a rise in the number of young people, including children, becoming addicted to nicotine via e-cigarettes or “vaping”. The measures announced today include:

  • standardising the size of tobacco packets and products as well as filters and preventing the use of specified additives in tobacco products, including flavours and menthol

  • limiting the use of appealing names on products that falsely imply these products are less harmful, like “light”

  • health promotion inserts in packs and pouches

  • updating advertising regulation to capture e-cigarettes.

The Government’s aim is to achieve smoking prevalence in Australia of less than 10% by 2025, and 5% or less by 2030.

RACGP President Dr Nicole Higgins backed today’s announcement.

“I welcome these new measures because we must do more to deter people, particularly young people, from taking up the nicotine habit,” she said.

“The fight against Big Tobacco is far from over and today’s measures will make a real difference. Introducing plain packaging was a strong step forward and these new reforms, such as health promotion inserts, are most welcome.

“It’s great news that there will be updated advertising regulation to capture e-cigarettes, this is something that we have previously called for. Despite repeated criticism from pro-vaping lobbyists and enthusiasts, we have consistently maintained a conservative stance towards e-cigarettes and backed measures designed to limit their use only as a last-line smoking cessation measure achieved via a prescription from a GP.

“One of the main concerns held by the college is the appeal of e-cigarettes to young people and the potential for vaping to become a life-long nicotine habit. Read my lips, vaping is not a risk-free, harmless version of smoking cigarettes. E-cigarettes are addictive and harmful products that can even prove fatal if ingested in certain amounts, something many young people are not aware of.

“The signs at the moment are not positive, because vaping has doubled between 2016 and 2019 and more and more young people are taking up the habit. The companies flogging these products know exactly what they are doing, they are creating flavours like candy and vanilla to entice younger people and the flavours smell and taste more pleasing than old-fashioned cigarettes.

“Vaping is often perceived by younger people to be ‘cool’ or appealing and distinct from cigarette smoking, but they all have the common ingredient of nicotine and cause harm. It’s similar to Big Tobacco promoting ‘light’ or ‘low tar’ cigarettes to achieve exactly the same thing – selling more of their product, boosting profits, and luring in new users. They will try this again and again, so we must be mindful, particularly when it comes to young people including children.

“Looking ahead and building on today’s announcement, we urge the Government to heed our submission to the Government’s draft National Tobacco Strategy 2022-2030 and introduce more clearly documented restrictions on tobacco lobbying to encompass all nicotine containing products. We also urge all political parties to reject Big Tobacco donations and refrain from meetings with any tobacco lobbyists because put simply they don’t deserve to get their foot in the door.”

The RACGP is a strong advocate for smoking cessation and supports our members to undertake smoking cessation consultations. Our Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals guideline include recommendations and information on smoking cessation.

The college was selected as one of the recipients of the 2020 World No Tobacco Day awards for its valuable work including the release of new Smoking Cessation Guidelines 2020.

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via: