As with the US last year, Australia is now the latest country to switch up their vaping policies under somewhat dubious logic. It’s often hard to demystify what exactly is changing and why, which is what we’re here for. Let’s get into what the new policy entails and what it means for the Australian vaper.
What was the existing law on vaping in Australia?
Before the new policy was imposed, sales of e-cigarettes and e-liquids were already banned across Australia. Nicotine was labeled a poison that one cannot legally possess anywhere except South Australia.
However, Australian vapers were able to use the ‘personal importation scheme’ under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 to order online from vaping suppliers abroad, with a doctor’s prescription. Notably, however, the doctor’s note requirement was not strictly imposed.
What are the new rules on vaping in Australia?
As we said, it’s complicated. The measures, that were set to come into force from July 1st, 2020, will instead begin from January 1st, 2021 after outrage from almost half a million Australian vapers. The policy entails the following.
- For starters, nicotine will now be classified as a prescription-only medication for human use, instead of a dangerous poison.
- It will be illegal to import vape products from websites abroad without a valid prescription. Any such products intercepted by the Australian Border Force could be impounded.
- The historically anti-vaping Health Minister Greg Hunt said, “people can still bring them in if they have a prescription from their doctor.” However, on closer inspection, this doesn’t exactly hold true.
- This is because e-cigarette users won’t only need a doctor’s prescription, the doctor themselves would need to be willing to import the products.
- Additionally, the doctors would need a special permit allowing them to import nicotine as an unauthorized therapeutic.
- It would be surprising if a significant number of doctors would go through this trouble simply to offer vapor products to their patients.
Australia’s policy on vaping has positioned them as the only western democracy that is currently anti-vape. Professor Ross Fitzgerald, a prolific Australian academic and commentator, rightly pointed out that Australia has “never had prohibition of cigarettes… (But) there’s a tremendous push to bring about prohibition of vaping.”
What does this mean for the average Australian vaper?
For Australian vapers there are 3 options, none of which look pretty great.
- Quit nicotine altogether. This of course is excellent if it can be done, but is terribly difficult – as any smoker would attest to.
- Continue importing e-liquids. If caught, vapers could face prosecution in the form of a hefty fine. The clincher is that legitimate e-liquid manufacturers would be unable to sell their products to Australians, and we’re now well aware of the dangers of black-market e-liquids. Most cases of the ‘vaping epidemic’ across the United States last year were attributed to THC e-liquids purchased over the black-market. Flouting these rules would therefore come with significant risks to vapers.
- Go back to cigarettes. This seems like a bleak yet realistic possibility for many since cigarettes will continue to be legally and freely available.
What could be done instead?
Historically and globally, prohibition hasn’t ever really gone well. Regulation, as opposed to banning, could work much better to prevent the harm that the government aims to stamp out. This harm refers in part to nicotine poisonings associated with e-liquids that have been on the rise in the last few years. However, getting rid of legitimate, well-crafted products would simply make users turn to illicit e-liquids, which is counterproductive since it increases the risk of nicotine poisoning.
Regulations put in place by individual states in the USA including mandatory child-proof packaging, a restriction on the mg of nicotine per ml of liquid, warning labels, etc. serve as more feasible options than an outright ban.
While the situation appears dreary at the moment, there is hope: several bodies have been campaigning against the new policy, saying it will make cigarette smoking (which kills 21,000 Australians a year) the more convenient option. 28 Coalition MPs also spoke up against the ban. At the very least, one could be optimistic that the 6-month delay in implementation leads to more streamlined processes and incentives for doctors to obtain permits and give out prescriptions for smoking cessation.
Veppo Vape Team
Gina King is the brand manager for Veppo, a family run brand offering select, tested, high quality vape pen vaporizers, e-liquid and e-cigars. Over the past 12 years, Veppo has provided more than 250,000 customers a friendly alternative to cigarettes.
Gina is a mother, writer, traveler and speaker and has been featured on HuffPost, Forbes, Elite Daily and more.