Australia restricts sale of e-cigarettes to pharmacies in tough new vaping regulation

Australia restricts sale of e-cigarettes to pharmacies in tough new vaping regulation

Australia has banned the sale of e-cigarettes, also known as vapes, outside of pharmacies in new regulations that came into force on Monday in a bid to curb vaping.

Under the new laws, vapes can be sold only in plain colours and packaging from 1 July. They can’t be locally manufactured or advertised.

The laws effectively ban the supply, manufacture, import, commercial possession or sale of vapes at any place other than a pharmacy. The ban applies even to vaping devices that don’t contain nicotine.

Australians must now produce a prescription to buy vapes and even then they cannot buy most flavours that are popular among younger users such as “bubble gum”.

“Therapeutic vaping products will be behind the counter, nicotine concentrations and dispensing quantities will be tightly controlled, they will have plain pharmaceutical-like packaging, and flavours will be restricted to tobacco, menthol and mint,” the Australian government said in a statement last week.

“Pharmacists will be required to check photo ID and, importantly, have a conversation with that person around the health harms of vaping.”

The new laws aim to revert vapes to their intended purpose as therapy for helping people quit smoking.

Mark Butler, the health minister, warned that convenience stores or tobacco shops caught selling vapes would be fined up to Australian $2m ($1.05m) and owners could be jailed for upto seven years.

“The best time to have done this was five years ago. The second-best time is right now,” the minister said.

Australia plans to set up a new government role called the Illicit Tobacco and E-cigarette Commissioner to curb black market sales of vapes.

The country will review the effectiveness of the new laws in three years.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia appeared displeased with the new laws as the body did not yet have any guidelines for dispensing “unregulated substances with no established therapeutic benefit”.

“When we don’t know the long-term effects of vapes on patient safety, how can a pharmacist make an informed decision?” the guild said in a statement last week.

About one in five 18-to-24-year-olds in Australia reported using vapes at least once, a survey found last year.

The new laws, the government said, seek to “protect young Australians and the broader community from the harms of recreational vaping”.

“Recreational vaping is a scourge. It is a public health menace, particularly for children and for young people,” Mr Butler said.

“A product that was presented as a therapeutic good that would help hardened smokers kick the habit finally, has actually been deployed by Big Tobacco as a tool to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction.”