Effective today, Australian Border Force Agents will have the power to intercept vaping products sent from overseas, reports Filter. Vapers who import nicotine illegally into Australia risk fines of up to AUD222,000 ($161,070).
Australia regulates nicotine for vaping as a medicine. An Australian smoker looking to switch to vaping must visit a doctor and get a prescription. The pharmacy then has to stock the desired vaping product or be able to deliver it. To get around the prescription requirement, many vapers have been importing their products from overseas.
The new rules are meant to end that practice.
Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) head John Skerritt said the ban was to prevent people from taking up nicotine vaping.
“There are a lot of tobacconists and convenience stores, and even things like sex shops, who are selling these products illegally at the moment,” Skerritt told ABC Australia.
“Especially young children; we’ve had many reports of schools, in fact, some even year 7 students, kids who are 11, 12, 13 using high levels of nicotine vapes.
“The trend is on the up in Australia.”
Australia’s prescription model has attracted heavy criticism from tobacco harm reduction proponents, given that combustible cigarettes—which are far more harmful than vapor products—remain readily available as consumer products. The policy will keep smokers smoking, drive vapers back to cigarettes or encourage consumers to purchase illicit products, according to critics.
“The people who will be most affected will be the people who are currently smoking and who decide they want to switch to vaping,” said Alex Wodak, director of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.
“Some people who are currently vaping will undoubtedly go back to combustible cigarettes.”
About 2.5 million Australians still smoke, with around 21,000 smoking-related deaths every year. There could be up to 600,000 vapers in Australia, according to some estimates.