Vaping is on the verge of being banned in Melbourne’s CBD as the council votes on whether to redefine e-cigarettes as ‘smoking’, angering civil libertarians.
City of Melbourne Council will decide on Tuesday whether to ban vaping from all of council’s existing smoke-free zones.
A total of 11 smoke-free zones in the CBD and surrounds including the Bourke Street Mall would be covered by the ban.
The popular Tan running track which loops around Kings Domain and the Royal Botanical Gardens, south-east of the CBD, would be off-limits to vapers if the motion passes the council vote.
Top inner-city retail centre QV Melbourne would also be vape-free.
Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) said the council was interfering with people’s choices, and their mandate does not extend to ‘lifestyle control’.
In a submission to council, the CLA said there was no evidence that brief exposure to e-cigarette vapour in the open air harms the health of others.
‘The local government role and mandate does not extend to lifestyle control, already exhaustively covered by prohibitionist legislation at the Commonwealth and state levels,’ the CLA submission said.
‘Restricting vaping in the Melbourne CBD would be an additional unjustified intrusion into consumer free choice and autonomy. There is no defensible scientific or medical basis for additional bans and controls and the proposal should be rejected.’
‘Rules and regulations should be limited to core council functions, not aimed at discriminating against a minority.’
Vapers have also opposed the move, arguing that inhaling aerosolised nicotine can help people quit smoking, which they say is more harmful.
Ex-smoker Andrew Whittle said vaping had helped him quit smoking.
‘Most vapers understand that it is not completely harmless, but it’s been shown time and time again to be considerably safer than cigarettes,’ he told The Age newspaper.
Sarah White, director of Cancer Council Victoria’s program Quit Victoria supports the ban on public health grounds.
She rejected a ‘discredited claim’ that vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking cigarettes, saying it was not based on scientific evidence.
‘The 95 per cent claim was based on an ‘guesstimate’ developed in a workshop involving 12 people, some with links to the tobacco industry,’ she said.
Daily Mail Australia understands that aldermen are divided on the issue with some still unsure as to how they would vote.
Lord Mayor Sally Capp said council had heard from some experts saying vaping is just as addictive and dangerous as smoking.
‘It’s coming up on Tuesday for debate, it’s already been quite contentious,’ Cr Capp told MMM radio’s Hot Breakfast program on Friday.
Daily Mail Australia understands that two thirds of submissions to the council have supported the ban which council is expected to pass.
Australia is gradually moving to end vaping across all jurisdictions.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration last month moved to ban the importation of most e-cigarettes and refills containing nicotine liquids from July 1, closing a loophole that allowed the products to be bought online from overseas and mixed with flavoured vape juice.
The Australian Border Force had been preparing to seize liquid nicotine imported without a GP’s prescription, with penalties of $220,000 fines to be imposed.
Health Minister Greg Hunt gave the industry a last-minute reprieve at the end of June, delaying the ban until 2021 while a six-month consultation and review is held.
Vaping has become controversial after it was marketed to school students in the USA resulting in lung disease and deaths among teenagers.
Scientists coined a new term for the disorder called EVALI, which stands for e-cigarette or vaping product use-associated lung injury.
An outbreak of the recently discovered illness had caused 68 deaths among 2,807 cases in the US by March of this year. Under 18s make up 15 per cent of patients.
Not much is known about the potentially deadly condition which emerged alongside the use of e-cigarettes. The oils and juices inside vapes are thought to stick inside the lungs, causing a build-up of material that is visible in chest scans.
About 227,000 people use e-cigarettes in Australia according to the 2016 The Australian Institute of Health and Welfare’s National Drug and Alcohol Survey.