As if vape regulations in Australia were not harsh enough, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) is suggesting a ban on flavoured vaping products, warning labels on product packages and a permit requirement for importing the products.
As of October 2021, vapers in Australia are only able to purchase vaping products from pharmacies via prescription. Anyone caught violating these harsh measures faces steep fines, and in some cases even imprisonment. Tobacco harm reduction experts have long argued that this measure will just lead to a thriving black market of the products, and a recent report has confirmed just that.
Commissioned by Independent Economics in February 2023, the report revealed that vaping has actually tripled in the last three years. There are currently 1.3 million vaping adults in Australia, equating to 6.5% of the adult population. The survey that informed the report consisted of 3,056 adults, and it revealed that only a mere 8% of existing vapers have a prescription.
Moreover, the Head of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration Associate Professor John Skerrit has recently contradicted himself when admitting that “the current regime doesn’t seem effective at all” yet refused to take responsibility for it: “we should be proud of what we have done on vaping”.
Not only does the TGA not regret its tobacco control strategy, but it seems set to take it further. The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the TGA is proposing new measures. Health Minister Mark Butler said all health ministers were “determined to stamp out this public health menace” as he received the recommendations last week following a public consultation that gathered over 4000 submissions.
Current regulations are already too harsh
Meanwhile, a recent study published in BMJ Open had confirmed that Australia’s harsh and outdated vape policy, has stalled the country’s smoking cessation efforts. Titled, “Impact of vaping introduction on cigarette smoking in six jurisdictions with varied regulatory approaches to vaping: an interrupted time series analysis,” the study analyzed smoking rates and cigarette consumption in 6 jurisdictions with different regulatory environments for vaping: Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia (in Canada), UK and Australia.
Of these Australia has the harshest vape regulations and subsequently the lowest vaping rates. However it also has one of the lowest rates of progress with regards to declining smoking rates.
In a recent blog, Australian tobacco harm reduction Dr. Colin Mendelsohn said that this study indicates once again that in Canada and the UK, smoking consumption and smoking rates in young adults declined faster after vaping became available.
“However in Australia, the decline in cigarette consumption by adult smokers has slowed and the decline in smoking rates in young adults has also slowed after vaping became available.”
“Australia has the harshest vaping regulations in the western world based on misguided concerns that vaping could lead young people who would otherwise not take up smoking to smoke. However this is perversely preventing adults from accessing a life-saving alternative and leading to more smoking-related deaths and illnesses,” added Mendelsohn.