The Queensland parliament will hold an inquiry into the health risks, use and prevalence of e-cigarettes, amid concerns that some vaping products marketed as “nicotine free” actually contain the addictive chemical.
Queensland laws allow the sale of nicotine-free vaping devices in tobacco shops. E-cigarettes containing nicotine are only available with a prescription.
But the state health minister, Yvette D’Ath, said on Sunday that “we know” that some products being sold off the shelf in Queensland do contain nicotine and other chemicals like nail polish remover.
The premier, Annastacia Palaszczuk, said the inquiry would examine measures designed to discourage children from taking up vaping.
“Critically, we need to have greater knowledge about what vaping devices contain,” Palaszczuk said.
“Does anyone have an understanding of what they are inhaling? Do these devices contain nicotine or, worse, do they contain dangerous or toxic chemicals?”
Related: Criminalising nicotine vaping in Australia could cause ‘further harm’, drug experts warn
The parliament’s Health and Environment Committee will carry out the inquiry. Its terms of reference include looking at the uptake of e-cigarette use, particularly among children and young people; the risks of vaping to individuals, communities and the health system; and approaches being taking in schools to discourage the habit.
The inquiry will also seek to understand the public’s awareness of harmful effects, and the effectiveness of preventive measures.
In a statement announcing the inquiry, the government cited research by the Cancer Council showing broad public support for regulation of vaping, and research by the chief health officer showing that the number of daily smokers had fallen by 47% between 2002 and 2020.
“Fewer people are smoking but we are seeing a significant number of people vaping,” Palaszczuk said.
“If vaping is a stepping stone to smoking, we need to ensure Queenslanders, especially young Queenslanders, are aware of the health risks.”
The federal parliament held an inquiry into nicotine e-cigarettes in 2018, which split MPs. Under current rules, nicotine vaping is only allowed as an intervention to assist smokers to quit, and requires a prescription.
“Although many vaping products are marketed as being nicotine free, we know that’s not always the case,” D’Ath said.
“And e-cigarettes can contain other chemicals like chemicals found in nail polish remover.”