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Pharmacies revolt over new vape laws

Written by on June 28, 2024

Major chemist brands have spoken out against new legislation that will legalise the sale of vapes over the counter without a prescription at pharmacies.

Australia’s crackdown on the underground nicotine vape market is set to ramp up from Monday, when new laws kick in banning all e-cigarette sales regardless of nicotine content.

From July 1 only people with a prescription can buy vapes from pharmacies in an effort to curb skyrocketing vaping rates among Australians, especially young people.

But it was announced this week that the policy would be tweaked from October to allow adults to buy vapes without a doctor’s note – after a deal was struck with the Greens.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia released a statement saying it “strongly opposed” the amendments to the bill which passed the parliament this week.

“The amendments were also opposed by the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, TerryWhite Chemmart, Priceline, National Pharmacies, Blooms and Pharmacy 777 pharmacy groups alongside thousands of independent pharmacies,” it said.

The stance raises doubts over the access Australians will have to vapes despite the watering down of the world-first ban.

Some proponents say vaping is an effective tool to quit harmful tobacco smoking, while others are concerned over its health impacts and say it can lead to people taking up cigarettes.

Anthony Tassone, the pharmacy guild’s national vice president, said pharmacists were “deeply disappointed” by the shift in policy.

He said they were concerned about selling products that were not TGA approved with unknown long-term side effects.

“Pharmacists are healthcare professionals and community pharmacies do not want to supply this potentially harmful, highly addictive product without a prescription,” Mr Tassone said.

Health Minister Mark Butler has said pharmacies can’t be forced to stock vapes, saying it would be up to individual stores to make that decision.

“Of course, pharmacies aren’t owned by the government, so they can’t be directed by the government what they sell. You know, some pharmacies choose to offer methadone treatment, some don’t,” he said.

“This will obviously be a decision by individual pharmacies.”

Greens leader Adam Bandt said this week that his party was against the “prohibition” of vaping products as history shows such methods don’t work.

“History is replete with examples of politicians telling adults not to use certain drugs, only to find that that doesn’t actually fix the problem,” he told the ABC’s RN Breakfast.

“The second motivation for us is that we said there is a real public health problem, and especially amongst children — the kind of flavoured vapes that children have been using, they’re meant to [be] deliberately marketed to children — for us was something that we really wanted to tackle.”

Children under 18 will still need a prescription to purchase vapes under the amended laws.

Studies have shown one in five Aussies aged 14 and over have tried a vape in their lifetime, and seven per cent smoke them daily, weekly or monthly.

Almost one in 10 Australians aged 18 to 24 say they vape daily.

Under the laws coming into effect from Monday, vapes will not be on show in pharmacies and will have similar plain packaging to cigarette products.

There will be no criminal penalties for being in possession of a vape, with people being allowed to have up to nine vapes.

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More than 2.5 million vape products have been seized in the country since January under a renewed focus on stopping supply to the thriving black market.

It is currently simply to acquire nicotine vapes across Australia cities, with many corner stores and smoke marts stocking the illicit items.

Someone found to be illegally supplying vapes faces a $1.5m fine and imprisonment, and retailers can be fined up to $2.2m.