Australia Today

The Nationwide Crackdown on Disposable Vapes Has Begun

To address the growing rates of nicotine dependency among young people, the federal government has pursued the first stages of its nationwide vape crackdown.
Nicotine Vape
Nicotine Vape: Photo by Marijan Murat/ Getty Images

As of January 1st, the government will have entered the first stages of its national crackdown on disposable vapes. Their first point of action was a ban on the importation of single-use vapes. The ban aims to tackle growing rates of nicotine dependency among young people.

Single-use nicotine vapes ordered before the new year and awaiting arrival will be considered illegal. However, the government will allow retailers to sell disposable vapes ordered before the new year, provided they do not contain nicotine or make therapeutic claims.

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Doctors and nurse practitioners will now be able to prescribe therapeutic vapes for those wanting to quit smoking or address nicotine dependency.

Currently, less than 10% of general practitioners have sought approval from the Therapeutic Goods Administration to prescribe therapeutic vapes. The process is now made simpler and quicker, where doctors can fill out an online form and send it to the TGA for approval.

Nick Zwar, a chairperson for an RACGP expert advisory group said they were working hard to inform health professionals of the new rules.

“It might be some months before GPs and other health professionals start to see more people say 'Can you help me with this problem?”, he told the ABC.

"Because quite a few people have gone and stocked up ahead of these new changes and bought quite large quantities of vaping products expecting that this will make it more difficult to buy them in the future."

Although the purchasing and importation of nicotine vapes without a doctor's prescription has been illegal since mid-2021, vaping rates among young people continue to rise.

A recent study published in the Medical Journal of Australia found more than 4,000 teenagers showed that one in four had vaped – an increase from 10% in a seperate study three years ago.

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The government and health experts have blamed this rise on the growing black market of nicotine vapes, which are often falsely labelled as nicotine-free and illegally sold in shops.

Becky Freeman, an Associate Professor in Public Health at the University of Sydney, said tougher import restrictions would help address this.

"We heard through our study that access was incredibly easy," she told the ABC.

"They could simply rock right up to a convenience store and purchase them themselves or ask around in the school yard, and find a contact on Snapchat to get themselves a vape,"

"We know that disposable vapes, particularly the flavoured ones that are laced with high concentration nicotine, are the devices favoured by young people, so preventing these from coming into Australia is an important first step."

The second stage of the crackdown begins on March 1, with the ban of refillable non-therapeutic vapes and the personal purchase of therapeutic vapes from overseas. Rules around flavours, nicotine concentration levels and packaging will also be strengthened and enforced.

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Adele is the Junior Writer & Producer for VICE AU/NZ. Follow her on Instagram and Twitter here.

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