Australian states and territories united in support of federal bill banning non-prescription vapes

<span>State and territory governments back the ban because they are especially worried vapes are being marketed to young people.</span><span>Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA</span>
State and territory governments back the ban because they are especially worried vapes are being marketed to young people.Photograph: Tolga Akmen/EPA

Australia’s state and territory governments support federal legislation before parliament that, if passed, would force vape stores to close by preventing the domestic manufacture, advertisement, supply and commercial possession of non-prescription vapes.

A special communique issued by all Australian health ministers on Thursday described the legislation as “world leading”.

“Australian health ministers are not going to stand by and let history repeat itself,” the joint statement said.

Related: Melbourne principal says schools struggling to combat vaping as minister blasts ‘public health menace’

“Vapes were sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic good: a product that could help hardened smokers kick the habit. Not a recreational product – especially not one targeted at kids.

“If vapes are therapeutic goods then it is entirely appropriate that Australia should regulate them as therapeutic goods, instead of allowing them to be sold alongside chocolate bars in convenience stores, often down the road from schools.”

The laws carry no penalties for individual vape users. If passed, the only legal way to buy vapes will be therapeutically through a pharmacy with a prescription from a GP.

The ministers’ statement said one-in-six high school students, and one-in-four young Australians aged between 18 and 24 were vaping.

“Australian health ministers are not going to stand by and let our kids get hooked on nicotine,” the statement said, as it “urged” the Australian parliament to pass the legislation.

Related: ‘I’ve lost my children to vaping’: the tragic stories behind the soaring rates of youth addiction

The Liberals, Nationals and Greens are yet to declare their position on the legislation.

Nationals leader David Littleproud has said his party may adopt a separate position to the Liberals, but both Coalition parties have raised concerns that the government’s plan may allow an illegal market to flourish.

The Greens back stronger action to stamp out vaping, but have raised concerns about “prohibition” and argued in favour of the kind of harm minimisation model the party advocates for other illicit drugs.

However, vapes are not being prohibited, as they will still be available through pharmacies.

The government’s bill is likely to be examined by a Senate committee. One Coalition source questioned whether the bill could be passed in time for the laws to come into effect by 1 July, as the government had hoped.

The CEO of the Public Health Association of Australia, Adjunct Prof Terry Slevin, said that “the fact that all Australian states and territories are on board with this legislation should be noted by the Senate, the Senate being the state house in the federal parliament”.

“This issue really boils down to two key issues,” he said.

“One is, it has to be about stopping kids from getting addicted to this seriously health-threatening product, with inhaling a panoply of chemicals into your lungs a potential public health timebomb. The second aspect is clearly about how we navigate helping existing smokers to quit, and vaping may be a helpful pathway for some smokers.”

He said the bill struck the balance of both of those priorities.