Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 3 August 2021) . . Page.. 2219 ..
of the then Labor government to this historic reform, particularly the efforts of Nicola Roxon as the health minister who introduced the legislation and then as Attorney-General as the legal fight escalated internationally.
Within Australia, the ACT is a leader in tackling tobacco smoking and reducing the impact that it has on the health and wellbeing of our community. We have taken big strides, at both a national and territory level, to reduce the rate of people smoking in the community and the number of people who take up smoking in the first place.
Currently, around 8.2 per cent of adults living in the ACT are daily smokers and 0.6 per cent of secondary school students. To put this into context, in 1998, 22.5 per cent of Canberrans over the age of 14 were daily smokers. In a little more than 20 years, the ACT has seen a reduction from more than one in five adults smoking to fewer than one in 10.
However, our efforts to reduce the terrible lifelong health burden caused by tobacco are being threatened by e-cigarettes and vaping. Unfortunately, young people are attracted to these products. Make no mistake, Mr Assistant Speaker, this is by design. E-cigarette sellers have recycled the tactics that were used to market tobacco to children in the 1950s, including celebrity endorsements, attractive promoters, sweet flavours and cartoons. For adults, there is encouragement to switch rather than quit.
Vaping devices are designed to look cool and attractive, incorporating edgy artwork. Vape liquid labels often include cartoons, bright colours and child-oriented confectionary names like gummy bears, sour worms and jelly beans. Sellers describe their products using words that are strongly linked to food and pleasure such as juicy, sweet, fizzy, tangy, frosty, yummy, luscious and treats.
Concerningly, it appears to be working, with the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare reporting that in 2019 one in five Australian non-smokers aged 18 to 24 had tried e-cigarettes, mostly out of curiosity. In addition we know that in the United States almost 20 per cent of high school students and nearly five per cent of middle school students are using e-cigarettes. This rate of use is occurring in a relatively unregulated environment and we do not want to see those figures here.
We are increasingly hearing reports, as Dr Paterson has talked about, of increasing adolescent use of e-cigarettes in the ACT, and this is indeed hugely concerning. We do not know how many ACT adolescents are vaping because the last data was collected in 2017 and the Australian secondary school student alcohol and drug survey has had to postpone its next data collection to 2022 due to COVID-19. But this has not stopped our work to reduce daily smoking rates and the number of people who start smoking.
A key priority in our plan to improve the health and wellbeing of the ACT community, the healthy Canberra plan, is to reduce the damage from tobacco. To achieve this, the plan identified a key aim: having fewer children and young people using smoking products, including e-cigarettes. There is strong and consistent evidence that non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are more likely to go on to smoke combustible tobacco than non-smokers who do not use e-cigarettes. E-cigarettes are a gateway to smoking.