The Australian government wants to ban the importation of almost all vape products and refills into the country from July 1st.
In a joint statement issued on Friday, June 19th, the Department of Health and Australian Border Force declared that the government “intends to ask the Governor-General in Council to make regulations from 1 July 2020 prohibiting the importation of e-cigarettes containing vaporiser nicotine (nicotine liquids and salts) and nicotine-containing refills unless on prescription from a doctor.”
The prohibition—which would remain in place for 12 months to allow for public consultation—would apply not just to the import but also the use of e-cigarettes, meaning individuals would only be allowed to vape on the proviso that they’d “discussed their needs with their doctor” and been issued a prescription.
“Individuals would get their vaporiser nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or nicotine-containing refills via a permission granted by the Department of Health to a doctor or medical supplier who would be able to import the goods using a courier service or by cargo service,” the statement reads. “The goods cannot be imported through international mail. Passengers who arrive in Australia with vaporiser nicotine containing e-cigarettes and nicotine-containing refills that match a prescription they are carrying with them, would be exempt from the prohibition.”
The sale of vapes is already illegal in each Australian state and territory, with authorities citing health concerns as the impetus for the ban. According to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), evidence suggests that the use of vapes by non-smoking youths leads to tobacco smoking later in life (although researchers have challenged this so-called "gateway theory", claiming that those who take up vaping probably would have smoked cigarettes anyway).
The Government's proposal, if passed, would further cement their hardline public health approach and close the loop through which most Australians are currently acquiring their vapes and refills: namely, by importing them from overseas. Exceptions would be made only in the event that vaping might help a person quit cigarettes.
“If both you and your doctor believe that the use of nicotine e-cigarettes can help you to stop smoking then you can still access the products with appropriate medical supervision,” the TGA states on its website.”You will need a prescription from your doctor for an e-cigarette containing vaporiser nicotine, and it will need to be obtained on your behalf by a medical supplier or from a pharmacist who dispenses it for your use as the named patient.”
Penalties for breaching the newly proposed rules would not be small. In the event the proposal passes, anyone caught importing, attempting to import, or possessing a prohibited import of vape products from July 1st could face a fine of $222,000.
At the time of writing, the Governor-General in Council had not agreed to implement the regulations.
This article originally appeared on VICE US.