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    Australia’s new vaping laws cause confusion

    Ali Anderson
    Ali Anderson
    July 11, 2024
    3 min
    Download Source FilesDownload Source Files

    Chemists and consumers in Australia have been left confused by new laws banning vape sales - with or without nicotine - outside of pharmacies.

    The federal government originally moved to make vapes available only by prescription from a GP and dispensed only at pharmacies. The controversial law - one of the toughest in the world - came into effect in October 2021. 

    Then, last month the ruling Labour party agreed to water down the bill in a bid to gain the support of the Green party in the Senate. 

    The amended bill, which was rubber stamped last week, means that vapes will still only be available from pharmacies - but WITHOUT prescription. Under 18s will be able to access vapes with a prescription if deemed clinically appropriate by a GP.

    ‘All of Australia’ confused

    However, the eleventh hour backtracking means the original law requiring a prescription to obtain a vape remains in place until October. This ‘limbo period’ has left both pharmacies and vape users confused. 

    Liberal Senator Anne Ruston said: “The government seems to think that it’s ok to do a deal with the Greens at the last minute and confuse all of Australia.”

    Many pharmacies have reacted with frustration and anger to the change of plan, with a growing list of big name brands saying they will not be stocking vapes for over-the-counter sales. 

    Other vape rules

    The latest reforms follow the first tranche of legislation in March which banned the importation of vapes unless the importer has a licence and permit.

    It is also illegal to domestically manufacture, supply, or commercially possess non-therapeutic and disposable vapes in Australia, with jail sentences of up to seven years and fines up to A$2.2 million (£1.16 million) for individuals, and A$22 million (£11.6 million) for businesses.

    Vapes must be sold in plain packaging and are restricted to three flavours - tobacco, menthol and mint.

    Additionally, the nicotine concentration in vapes sold in pharmacies without a prescription will be limited to 20mg per ml - less than half the nicotine content found in many vapes sold on the black market.

    The rules have backfired

    Australia’s strict vape laws have largely backfired by fuelling the trade in illegal vapes. Violent turf wars have broken out among rival gangs in recent months trying to take control of the black market, with dozens of tobacco shops set alight. 

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

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