Australia has tightened its vaping laws in a bid to crack down on the illegal use and sale of nicotine vaping products.
From today, it's illegal to buy items such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine from overseas and locally without a prescription.
Until now, people had been permitted to import up to three months' worth into Australia.
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But once those products arrive in the country, it is actually illegal to possess them in every jurisdiction – except South Australia – without a prescription.
The Federal Government argues the changes will fill the current gap between importation laws and domestic regulations.
"These decisions will both reduce the risk of an on-ramp for teenagers and non-smokers that e-cigarettes pose, provide a legal avenue for smoking cessation with advice from authorised medical professionals, while ensuring the issue of legal importation but illegal possession is uniform across the Commonwealth, states and territories," a spokesperson for Health Minister Greg Hunt said.
For those who would like to access nicotine vaping products, there are two ways to do so:
- Filling your prescription at a community pharmacy, or an Australian online pharmacy
- Importing from overseas websites, with a prescription (up to three months' supply)
However, you can only fill your prescription at a pharmacy, if you've visited one of about 80 authorised prescribers, or a doctor with approval under the TGA's Special Access Scheme B.
An authorised prescriber is a GP who is registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration to prescribe nicotine vaping products.
The TGA has published a list of authorised prescribers who have consented to the publication of their name and location on its website.
Otherwise, you can get your prescription from one of more than 30,000 general practitioners nationwide, and then order from an overseas website.
While the Federal Government argues the changes will protect young people, a leading vaping advocate has slammed the new legislation.
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Legalise Vaping Campaign Director Brian Marlow argues the prescription model is unnecessary.
"Look, I think it's a slap in the face to over 500,000 vapers across the country, these people who have quit smoking and finally done the right thing in getting away from cigarettes and yet somehow we're making it harder for them to access these products that we know are less harmful," he said.
"I do think the prescription model will drive people back to smoking.
"We've surveyed over 7000 vapers across the country and almost half of them said once the prescription model comes into place they'll probably go back to smoking."
Despite the criticism from vaping advocates, the laws are being welcomed by The Australian Council on Smoking and Health.
Chief Executive Maurice Swanson says he hopes they will stop children from taking up e-cigarettes:
"We think it's a very positive move and we're hoping that the main effect will be preventing children and other young people from getting hold of the disposable vaping devices," he said.
Mr Swanson brushed off any suggestion the new laws will put ex-smokers at risk of relapse.
"That's just a furphy, it's nonsense," he said.
"Those people who are genuinely trying to give up smoking will be able to get a prescription from their doctor and they'll be able to benefit from the supervision and support."
Products not affected by the changes include nicotine replacement therapies, such as sprays, patches, lozenges, chews and gums.
Vape stores will still be able to sell flavours and non-nicotine vaping products, or, separately, devices.