Vaping reforms timeline released

Wednesday, 29 November, 2023

Vaping reforms timeline released

The federal government has announced that the first stage of vaping reforms will commence from 1 January, with further protections implemented over the course of 2024.

There will be a ban on importation of disposable single use vapes from January, subject to limited exceptions. The importation of all other vapes, irrespective of nicotine content or therapeutic claims, would be banned from 1 March 2024 unless certain conditions are complied with.

From that time, importers will need to hold licences and permits from the Office of Drug Control (ODC) to lawfully import vapes. At the same time, the personal importation scheme for therapeutic vapes will cease to operate.

Prescription pathway

In parallel with the ban, a new Special Access Scheme pathway to prescribe vapes will also start from January, which is expected to facilitate improved access to therapeutic vapes, whereby all medical practitioners and nurse practitioners will be able to prescribe their use where clinically appropriate.

From March 2024, further changes are expected to commence, including the: cessation of the personal importation of vapes; ban on the importation of non-therapeutic vapes; requirement for therapeutic vape importers and manufacturers to notify the Therapeutic Goods Administration of their product’s compliance with the relevant product standards; and the requirement for importers to obtain a licence and permit from the federal government’s Office of Drug Control before the products are imported.

Product standards for therapeutic vapes will also be strengthened in 2024, including to limit flavours, reduce permissible nicotine concentrations and require pharmaceutical packaging. A transition period will be allowed for businesses to comply with the new requirements.

National Vaping Working Group

New legislation set to be introduced in 2024 will prevent domestic manufacture, advertisement, supply and commercial possession of non-therapeutic and disposable single use vapes to ensure comprehensive controls on vapes across all levels of the supply chain.

In a recent focus meeting Australian Health and Police Ministers agreed to task officials with developing a national enforcement framework for vaping products — to stamp out unlawful vapes in the community and prevent illegal markets from emerging. A multi-agency National Vaping Working Group will also be established to oversee development and implementation of the national enforcement framework.

This strong, comprehensive action, complemented by enhanced compliance and enforcement activity across all governments, hopes to turn the tide against the rising use of vapes by young Australians.

The latest data, from the first quarter of 2023, shows that about one in seven 14- to 17-year-olds and one in five 18- to 24-year-olds are current vapers. There is strong and consistent evidence that young Australians who vape are around three times more likely to take up tobacco smoking compared to those who have never vaped.

Protecting young Australians

Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler said, “Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit. It was not sold as a recreational product — especially not one targeted to our kids, but that is what it has become.

“The great majority of vapes contain nicotine and children are becoming addicted. Vaping is a gateway to smoking and smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia. Smoking continues to kill approximately 20,000 Australians every year.

“The government is alive to the implementation obstacles, like all other illegal drugs, there will no doubt be some vapes that get into the country but they will no longer be easy for school children, our most vulnerable and impressionable members of society, to get their hands on them.”

Medical supervision

The Public Health Association of Australia welcomed the new vaping regulations.

“Street-corner nicotine vendors selling brightly coloured pina colada, gummy bear or blueberry flavoured products, which contain ingredients never designed to be inhaled into human lungs, will have to find their profits elsewhere,” said Public Health Association of Australia (PHAA) CEO Adjunct Professor Terry Slevin.

“The government’s proposed actions are good news for parents and carers of young people who vape, and bad news for the vaping and nicotine industry desperate to find younger customers they can hook for life.”

“If some smokers find e-cigarettes helpful to quit smoking, that pathway will still be open. But instead of being self-regulated, it will be under medical supervision where there’s a much higher chance of success,” Slevin said.

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