Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2021 Week 08 Hansard (Tuesday, 3 August 2021) . . Page.. 2224 ..
should be encouraged. However, the reality is that e-cigarettes are far more problematic for our health than the issues they allegedly seek to solve.
As an appealing tasting and smelling product that does not have the same stigmas and social taboos as smoking, vaping is used as a tool by tobacco companies to encourage and initiate nicotine addiction, which will most likely lead to smoking and therefore a long-term reliance on their products.
Statistics collected by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare evidenced the growing trend of vape uptake amongst people over 18, with a doubling of usage between 2016 and 2019. With a smoking rate so low, and a policy landscape that has already been so successful in reducing smoking rates, we have everything to lose in allowing vaping to be a pathway to the initiation of smoking.
The focus of this public debate, reflected in Dr Paterson’s motion, is the fear that young people are particularly at risk due to both peer pressures and the savvy social media presence of companies such as Juul, who have been criticised and litigated in the United States for their role in promoting nicotine addiction in younger people.
In this debate, we should be careful not to directly equate younger people with poor decision-making merely due to peer pressure, nor assume that young people are at fault for the sophisticated marketing that they have been subjected to. Indeed, millennials and gen Z people have been driving down the trend of underage drinking and drug use for which previous generations have been notorious. This proves that young people respond well to targeted and appropriate public health messaging and are leaders of important social and cultural change.
Today’s young people are also much less likely than previous generations to take up smoking. This is precisely why tobacco companies consider them to be a new marketing opportunity and challenge. The fact that young people have been able to be targeted by nicotine companies evidences a gap in the policy and legislative regime that is our responsibility to fix. That is why the ACT Greens are pleased to support Dr Paterson’s motion.
Before I end, I would like to take this opportunity to highlight a largely unspoken issue. The ACT has one of the lowest smoking rates in the country, with our daily smoker rates stubbornly sitting at about eight per cent. This claim to the lowest rate in the country is largely due to the socioeconomic status of our population. We know that, unfortunately, smoking correlates with other measurements of marginalisation, such as poverty, sexuality, drug use and intergenerational trauma. We know that people who enter the criminal justice system are more likely to be smokers and that those who do not smoke are more likely to pick up smoking within prison.
This is an intergenerational issue too, with people whose parents smoked while they were growing up much more likely to smoke as well.
Alongside doing great work to prevent the uptake of smoking through this motion, I would like to take the opportunity to encourage the ACT government to commit to implementing an effective smoking cessation strategy that targets marginalised groups.