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    Australia waters down world-first vape laws

    Ali Anderson
    Ali Anderson
    June 24, 2024
    4 min read
    Download Source FilesDownload Source Files

    Australia has watered down its world-first law banning vapes outside of pharmacies - with access now not restricted to prescription-only. 

    The federal government decided to backtrack on its strict proposals - due to take effect from next week - in a bid to gain the support of the Green party in the Senate. 

    The governing Labour party has agreed to pass the bill with key amendments, which mean adults will be able to buy vapes from pharmacies without prescription. Under 18s will be able to access vapes with a prescription if deemed clinically appropriate by a GP.

    Plain packaging and limited flavours remain

    The sale of vapes at pharmacies will still be regulated and subject to plain packaging requirements, with flavours limited to mint, menthol or tobacco.

    Greens health spokesperson Jordon Steele-John said: “.. We have successfully secured changes to this legislation to ensure that vapes remain out of the hands of kids, but adults can access them via a pharmacy, and there's no chance of individuals being criminalised for possessing a personal vape." 

    The new amendments will take effect from October. Additional funding has also been committed to support young people quitting vaping.

    In a statement, Health Minister Mark Butler said the government's "world-leading laws" would return vapes to their original purpose: "as therapeutic products to help hardened smokers kick the habit".

    "These laws protect young Australians and the broader community from the harms of recreational vaping, while ensuring that those who really need access to a therapeutic vape for help to quit smoking, can get one from their local pharmacy," Mr Butler said.

    "The best time to have done this was five years ago. The second-best time is right now."

    New vape laws have backfired

    The government has warned without urgent action, a new generation of nicotine addicts will be created, with recent data showing the first rise in nicotine use through vapes or smoking by young people in decades.

    However, the country’s strict new vape laws - which began at the start of the year - have backfired by fuelling the trade in illegal vapes. Violent turf wars have broken out among rival gangs trying to take control of the black market, with dozens of tobacco shops set alight. 

    Now, the federal government is facing fierce opposition to its new proposals from the peak body for pharmacists.  

    "Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who dispense medication that provides a proven therapeutic benefit. No vaping product has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration based on its safety, efficacy or performance," a spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild said.

    "Everyone wants to keep illegal vapes out of the hands of kids and teenagers, but the Senate wants pharmacists to stock vapes next to children's Panadol, cold and flu medicine, and emergency contraception."

    The government did not intend to criminalise personal possession, but has agreed to add further detail to the bill to clarify that offence provisions only apply "in a retail setting".

    Another slap in the face for retailers

    Vaping advocate Pippa Starr took to social media to criticise the government’s decision as another slap in the face for vaping retailers. 

    She tweeted on X: “Will Australian vapers stand for having their industry that was created before any black market began, gifted to big pharmaceutical and big tobacco companies? 

    “Vaping began because no big pharmaceutical or tobacco company would create it! Now our government rips that out of our hands and puts in the hands of white coats that wouldn’t know the difference between a coil and an RDA and will charge ridiculous prices for a limited range! No way! Vapers won’t accept that!” 

    A statutory review of the world-first laws will be held in three years' time.

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