Table of Contents
If you’ve read any of my previous articles on the state of vaping affairs in Australia, you’ll know it’s been somewhat of a circus on the happenings over there with the constant chopping and changing of regulations and restrictions.
There’s been changes a plenty with the rules and regulations of vaping, with the main reason at the forefront being the need to protect young people from having access to nicotine based products and forming “a new generation of nicotine addicts”
But now there’s been further regulations announced that essentially spells the end of the road for Vaping in Australia. In this article, I’m going to go through a full timeline of events regarding Vaping in Australia, as well as going through the latest announcements and where it goes from here.
Australia Vs Vaping – The Ongoing War
The Banning of Nicotine Vape Juice Being Sold At Retail Locations
Over the course of the last couple of years, there’s been this ongoing war it feels like between the Australian Government and Vaping, with there being some serious heat thrown towards Vaping from Government officials, with a big enforcement of regulation coming into effect from October 2021.
In October 2021, the Australian Government announced that they would be enforcing some of the strictest regulations on Vaping that had not really been seen by any other country when it came to the subject of Vaping. They introduced the legislation that any vape juice that contained Nicotine could not be sold at retail, and instead had to be obtained from a Pharmacy with a valid prescription issued from a Registered GP within Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration were the one who created and enforced this legislation, and The Poisons Standard was amended so all nicotine vaping products became ‘prescription only’ medicines regulated by the TGA. This meant no nicotine-vaping products are included on the Register of Therapeutic Goods which made them ‘unapproved medicines.’ Remember the Therapeutic Goods Administration as they’re going to be mentioned again later on in this article.
This was of course met with mass uproar and confusion from residents of Australia, as well as pro vaping groups, calling these regulations “harsh and unnecessary” and the prospect of what damage it could cause to current vapers within Australia who rely heavily on getting Nicotine vape juice to stop them smoke seemed to be ignored by the TGA and the Government.
The whole ideology behind bringing these regulations in was to protect the youth of Australia by making it harder to obtain Nicotine containing products in turn reducing the probability of a “new generation of Nicotine addicts” from being formed. It’s understandable for them to have this reasoning, but to penalise those of legal vaping age by restricting what they can get seems harsh.
One Year On…Did The Regulations Work?
Spoiler…no the regulations did not work.
A year passed from these regulations being introduced, and Dr Colin Mendelsohn took to the keyboard to pen a “year in review” article looking at whether these regulations did in fact work out how the TGA and the Government had hoped, and the end result which shows the then current state of Vaping in Australia was borderline catastrophic. You can read my article I wrote about this by following the link
In a previous article written by Dr Colin, he and the association he was involved with made some predictions on what would happen with vaping in Australia and they near enough nailed every prediction, might ask him for the lottery numbers! Here’s a list of what happened in that year;
- Black market Disposable sales boom – Cheaply made Disposable devices were being imported from China for as little as $4 AUD per unit and these black market sellers were capatilising on people in need and selling them for around $40 AUD per device! That’s around £25 for one measly little Disposable! Criminal gangs were even getting involved on the import and sale of these as they were a considerable minor risk compared to what else they were involved in. And even Uber drivers were selling them to their passengers, you couldn’t make this up!
- Sheer negligence for compliance – Obviously, black market sellers don’t care for compliance, but it’s reported that some petrol stations, convenience stores and other small shops were freely selling Disposables “under the counter” with no regard to checking ID of the customers, instead with their eye on the prize of a quick buck.
- Doctors failing to show willingness to comply – As stated, people who wanted Nicotine vape juice had to go through their GP to get a prescription for it. But studies were done looking into just how many Doctors had the capability of writing these scripts, and it showed a staggering 200 out of 31,000 GPs in Australia actually could do this, that’s less than ONE PERCENT of the entire countries GP’s! Doctor’s admitted they were afraid to issue something should it not be on the TGA’s approved medicines list and risk their licence to practice medicine. Shambles!
An Admission of Failure But Promise Of Further Regulations Incoming
So we’ve established between ourselves and Dr Colin’s advice that these regulations were pretty much a failure, it hadn’t worked how Australia officials had hoped, and was essentially absolute chaos and the complete opposite what they had hoped would happen. But what was the feelings of one of the people on this subject who were actually responsible for enforcing these regulations?
Late in 2022, The Head of the Therapeutic Goods Association, Professor John Skerrit stood and answered questions regarding the failure of this nicotine ban that the TGA had a huge part in making become a reality. I’ve watched this questioning procedure a handful of times because it is an absolute disaster to watch unfold, and it was a little bit embarrassing for him to have to face the facts of what exactly has gone wrong.
He acknowledged the fact that youth vaping had dramatically increased, huge numbers of low-quality products are entering and being sold in the country via illegal channels, the fact that only 1% of doctors can prescribe nicotine contained vape juice, and less than 10% of adult vapers who actually need a prescription currently hold a valid prescription to get the nicotine contained vape juice.
Professor Skerritt went on to, in a way contradict himself, by saying that “they should be proud for what they have done on vaping” shortly after saying the words “the current regime we have doesn’t seem to be working at all.” He also acknowledged that youth vaping numbers has drastically increased but then declared “the horse has already bolted” when it comes to the topic of vaping. Professor Skerritt denied that the black market for unregulated vapes was the TGA’s fault and effectively played the “not our fault” card when it was asked about.
At the end of this speech, Professor Skerritt promised that further regulations would be coming which included;
- Banning of flavours and additives
- Doctor’s becoming more forthcoming and willing to prescribe
- Plain packaging and nicotine concentrations being reduced
And low and behold, that’s exactly what has happened and bought us to this article today. Let’s take a look at this in more detail though.
The End of The Road For Vaping In Australia?
On Monday 1st May 2023, the Australian Government made an announcement which pretty much sealed the fate of recreational vaping in Australia as it was declared that the importation of nicotine containing products AND NON-NICOTINE products would be banned and unobtainable unless from a Pharmacy.
On top of this, the minimum standards requirements were also announced including restricting flavours, colours and other ingredients. Vape products will require pharmaceutical-like packaging, and the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes will be reduced. All single-use, disposable vapes will be banned. Pretty much what was announced that I discussed above.
They say that this reform is to make it easier for smokers who want to quit to easily obtain a prescription to quit, and then they can fully understand what it is in their vape juice that they will be using as this has to come from a registered pharmacy. There’s a much easier way round this, they could have just copied TPD regulations like we have here in the UK, but alas, too easy and they’re not fans of copying us after Mark Butler’s comments regarding the outright refusal to adopt a “Swap to Stop” scheme like the UK government launched here.
Some have called these regulations borderline prohibition and an unnecessary clamp down on something that could have easily been fixed with the correct planning and procedures and not such harsh force like what’s happening here.
Health Minister Mark Butler makes it no secret that he is not a fan of Vaping in the slightest, as you may have guessed from the above reference, but he further laments this fact with the following quote;
“Just like they did with smoking… ‘Big Tobacco’ has taken another addictive product, wrapped it in shiny packaging and added sweet flavours to create a new generation of nicotine addicts,”
“No more bubble-gum flavours, pink unicorns or vapes disguised as highlighter pens for kids to hide them in their pencil cases,”
Say what’s on your mind Mr Butler! What doesn’t quite make sense to me here, is the belief from him that Big Tobacco are so heavily involved with vaping, when in reality, they aren’t really.
Sure JUUL was owned by Altria, who are a Big Tobacco associate, but nearly all of the big brands especially Disposables, are in fact independent Chinese companies who are long standing in the Vaping world, with a vast history of manufacturing Vaping devices in a bid to get people away from smoking cigarettes, with no help or funding from Big Tobacco companies at all!
And to this day, I’m still yet to see a Disposable disguised as a highlighter pen or one that resembles a Pink Unicorn…the idea of that does sound pretty neat though.
What Next For Australia?
These announcements were made by Mr Butler within the Australian Budget announcement that took place last week, much like what happens with our Budget announcements, just slightly later. There has been no set date for when these new reforms will be taking place, but I can’t imagine it’s going to be too far away. Mr Butler said the following also;
“The 2023–24 Budget will include $737 million to fund a number of measures to protect Australians against the harm caused by tobacco and vaping products.”
“The Budget will include $63m for a public health information campaign to discourage Australians from taking up vaping and smoking and encourage more people to quit.”
“There will be $30m invested in support programs to help Australians quit, including through enhanced nicotine cessation education and training among health practitioners.”
“Tax on tobacco will be increased by 5 per cent per year for 3 years in addition to normal indexation. The Government will also align the tax treatment of loose-leaf tobacco products (such as roll-your-own tobacco) with the manufactured stick excise rate to ensure these products are taxed equally.
Both of these changes will reduce the affordability of tobacco, which is consistent with the priorities of the National Tobacco Strategy 2023-2030 (the Strategy), which the Australian Government has released today.”
The ongoing battle between Australia’s Government and Vaping looks like it’s finally coming to a head and unfortunately, it’s vaping that is coming off worse here in this battle.
The restrictions and regulations are just far too much in my opinion, and could have been handled a considerably different way, but it seems the blinkered approach with no outlook to other countries methods appears to have prevailed.
It’s really damaging for current vapers in the country of Australia as well as people who may wanting to be using an E-Cigarette as their form of Nicotine Replacement Therapy as it seems like it’s going to be borderline impossible which is really unfortunate.
I’ll keep a close watch on the next stages of this as to when these reforms come into force and be sure to keep you all updated in future articles.