Thursday, 19 October 2023




David LIMBRICK (South-Eastern Metropolitan) (18:33): (534) My adjournment matter today is for the attention of the Minister for Health, although I hope that it will also come to the attention of the Minister for Police, the Minister for Mental Health and the Minister for Government Services. Another week and another news story about a tobacconist or vape shop being targeted by organised crime. In the early hours of yesterday morning a tobacconist in Reservoir was rammed by a car. Whilst I do not have any particular insight into what happened, it certainly seems that this is yet another blow in what has been described as an organised crime turf war over the illicit tobacco and vaping market.

While the illicit tobacco market is clearly a result of excessively high taxes, making the illicit trade a profitable enterprise, the inclusion of vaping in this turf war is entirely a result of this government’s policy. To be fair to this government, it would be unfair to single it out. This is bipartisan policy failure. The former Morrison government introduced the failed prescription model for e-cigarettes, but it is also supported by the current federal Labor government, the former Andrews Labor government, the Allan Labor government, the Victorian Greens and many others. Now the situation that we have in Victoria, and indeed in Australia, is that a technology designed to deliver nicotine without the need for burning plant material and all the associated harm that it causes is far more difficult to purchase than tobacco, at least in theory. In practice, the products are widely available. You probably do not need to walk more than a few hundred metres from this building to purchase a dodgy vape that was imported illegally and distributed by organised crime networks. Whilst various public health organisations and politicians are very confident that they know best, the voting public tend to have better nonsense detectors.

The RedBridge Group have recently published some research which provides some interesting insights. Two per cent of voters were very confident that a prescription-only model will stop black market sales, 15 per cent were somewhat confident, 39 per cent were not confident at all and 44 per cent were not particularly confident. What about the question: how well are governments in Australia managing the regulation of nicotine vaping products? One per cent of voters rated this as very good – 1 per cent. Three per cent rated it as good and 15 per cent as acceptable. Whilst the status quo is a disaster, perhaps it could be considered a silver lining that at least voters recognise it as such. It seems that evidence, international experience and a thriving organised crime war will not result in a change in approach, so let me try some self-interest. When asked how likely voters were to consider vape regulation policy when choosing whether to vote for a political party, 9 per cent were very likely and 52 per cent were somewhat likely. My request for the Minister for Health is to immediately begin work on the relevant policies to allow retail vape stores to legally sell nicotine vapes.