THE state government put on hold laws to restrict minors from obtaining e-cigarettes after MPs were approached by a lobby firm representing big tobacco companies.

The revelation comes as the latest Global Drug Survey shows e-cigarette use has nearly doubled in the past 12 months.

Legislation to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors was due to be passed last month, but government delayed progress of the bill before amendments proposed by Labor and the Greens to place further restrictions on the industry were debated.

Greens health spokesman Jeremy Buckingham said in the interim, a lobby firm that listed British American Tobacco and Nicoventures among its clients, called his office to find out how much parliamentary support there was for the amendments — which would have restricted the advertisement, display and public use of e-cigarettes in line with tobacco.

“It’s clear that big tobacco . . . want to see a whole new generation addicted to their nicotine products,” Mr Buckingham said.

“That’s why it is crucial that the parliament act swiftly . . . The government should resist pressure from an industry whose product killed 100 million people in the 20th century.”

The government adjourned the bill after it became clear the amendments would have the support of the crossbench.

A spokeswoman for NSW Health Minister Jillian Skinner said Nicoventures asked for a meeting with the minister but it did not take place.

Consideration of the legislation adjourned while privatisation of poles and wires took precedence.

It would return in the next sitting period, the spokeswoman said.

But Labor health spokesman Walt Secord said the bill could have been amended in minutes and would be law by now.

“The Liberals know that the amendments by Labor and Greens are sensible and have the widespread support of the Cancer Council and the Heart Foundation,” Mr Secord said.

“It would be in the best interests of the community that e-cigarettes are treated like tobacco.”

The Global Drug Survey 2015, done in partnership with global media organisations including Fairfax Media, has found the use of e-cigarettes has nearly doubled, as it is promoted as a method to quit smoking.

Survey founder Adam Winstock said the e-cigarettes industry had become more commercialised.

“There are lots of companies out there trying to get a foothold in the market and either they can make a lot of money before serious regulation comes in, or the best way to make money . . . is to get bought out by the tobacco industry,” Dr Winstock said.

Should e-cigarettes be treated like tobacco? 

Extracted in full from the St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.

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