The recent report of a Queensland vape shop worker who suffered severe burns when a nicotine vaping product reportedly exploded in his hand highlights the need for Australia to consider consumer protections for vapers.
Nicotine vaping products have been around for nearly 20 years, but the rapid rise in global demand has led to the emergence of black market suppliers that produce cheap products in order to corner part of the growing market.
In any consumer product category, cheap goods can be a danger to the public. Legislation and regulation are regularly used to ban dangerous devices. Australia leads the world in many consumer protections on all sorts of products, from aquatic toys that need indelible printed safety warnings to indoor retractable blinds, which must meet certain requirements to ensure cords don’t present a strangulation hazard to children.
The list goes on: there are minimum standards for occy straps, bean bags, and toys containing magnets. There’s even a dedicated regulation for basketball rings and backboards.
With well over a million Australian adults now choosing to vape, they are entitled to know that the products they are using are safe. Besides, we use rechargeable batteries in all sorts of devices every day, so we know they can be manufactured for mass consumption without presenting a risk to consumers.
The vape shop incident in the Gold Coast is far from the first time problem with exploding nicotine vaping products. The peer reviewed medical journal Annals of Plastic Surgery reported in 2016 on two especially severe cases where people needed operations after incidents involving dangerous vaping devices. One of those people required a jaw reconstruction and the other lost a finger.
Australia’s current regulatory settings are a de facto prohibition on vaping products. This has created enormous demand for black market products which now dominate the market, preventing legitimate businesses that have the capability to meet minimum manufacturing standards from being able to sell their products to adults who choose to vape.
Just as is the case with ingredient and nicotine level labelling, electrical standards can form a baseline requirement that help adult vapers understand they are buying safe products – and that vape shop workers can go to work without risking a limb.