SPEECH: Therapeutic Goods and Other Legislation Amendment (Vaping Reforms) Bill 2024

Mr CLARE (Blaxland—Minister for Education) (18:33): If you ask any parent of school-aged children—certainly children in high school and increasingly children in primary school—they’ll tell you that they’re worried about vaping. If you ask any principal or schoolteacher, they’ll tell you the same. They’ll tell you that it is fast becoming the biggest behavioural issue in their schools. This is what a New South Wales principal said last year:

They’re so desperate to have the next one or get money to have the next one that students have become more aggressive, more agitated, less cooperative, less engaged with their school work.

This is—ask any fair-minded person—becoming a menace in our schools. The companies that make these things are targeting our kids. Evidence of that, if you need it, is the fact that nine out of 10 vape stores are within walking distance of our schools. If the purpose is to target our kids, it’s working, because we now know that about one in six young people have used vapes recently. I want them out of our schools, and part of that is getting them out of the corner stores that are across the road from the schools. That’s a big part of what this legislation, the Therapeutic Goods and Other Legislation Amendment (Vaping Reforms) Bill 2024, will help us to do.

If you talk to high-school teachers, they will often tell you that they feel like they’re becoming de facto police. They can tell when young people are withdrawing from nicotine. They can see the behavioural change in the classroom. They can see which students aren’t in the classroom because of the impact of the withdrawal from nicotine. They’ll tell you part of their job has become search and seizure, in student’s lockers or schoolbags, trying to find vapes which sometimes don’t look like vapes; they are disguised to look like a highlighter or a USB. That, plus the flavours they come in—watermelon, bubblegum, cookies and cream—should tell you who the target market is here; it’s our kids. The same sorts of companies that were getting kids hooked on cigarettes once upon a time are using the same old marketing playbook with a new millennial twist. Nicotine delivery devices are being pushed on kids by TikTok influencers. And all with one goal in mind: to get another generation hooked on nicotine.

That’s why this bill is important. It bans the importation, the manufacture, the supply and the commercial possession of disposable single-use and non-therapeutic vapes. That bit about non-therapeutic vapes is important, too. Vapes were originally conceived or marketed as a therapeutic—something to get people off the smokes. My view is: if they are therapeutic and designed to get people off the smokes, you should get them at the pharmacy. What’s being proposed here to the parliament isn’t prohibition; it’s regulation—akin to what we did with codeine a couple of years ago. If you’ve got a prescription from a doctor, you’ll be able to get it at the pharmacy. What you won’t be able to do is go into a corner store opposite the local school and see them sitting there alongside a bottle of Prime.

I congratulate my friend and colleague the Minister for Health and Aged Care for bringing forward this important legislation. I think that, if we do this, it will make a big impact in our local schools. That’s why I urge all members to listen to parents and teachers, to what they’re saying here, and to back parents, back teachers and back this bill.