The Federal Government has long been beating the drums of a vape crackdown. In South Australia, they’ve just gone ahead and done it.
While the plans are still being worked out for exactly how a national ban on vaping will work, new laws in SA have come into play today that seek to “stamp out” nicotine vapes.
“I am really concerned about the alarming rates of young people becoming addicted to vapes, with parents regularly contacting my office about the problem,” Health Minister Chris Picton said.
“These strict new conditions are designed to keep illegal nicotine vapes out of retail outlets and out of the hands of South Australians, especially children”.
The new licencing laws will require all shops that sell vapes to prove that they are nicotine free. They will also need to be able to show where they import their products from.
Anyone caught selling nicotine vapes, or being unable to show that their vapes are free from nicotine, will face a $10,000 fine.
“It is important for retailers to know that it is illegal to sell any nicotine vaping products in South Australia unless you are the holder of a licence under the Controlled Substances Act (such as a pharmacy) and the purchaser is in possession of a valid prescription,” SA Health, Protection and Licensing Services Executive Director, Dr Chris Lease said.
“Retailers found to be in breach will face significant penalties. We urge all licence holders to familiarise themselves with the changes so they can comply with them when they take effect.”
The government is supporting the new laws with a two-month “enforcement blitz.” SA Health officers will be conducting random visits to stores selling vaping products to check for compliance. Previous blitzes, the government says, have resulted in the seizure of around 15,000 illegal vapes and 17 fines issued.
SA made vaping products containing nicotine prescription-only products in 2021, in line with national policy that did similar. The new laws now make further demands of retailers, which the government will be flowing up on.
The changes come as the national government considers its options for a federal ban on vaping. Much was made of the announcement from the Health Minister, Mark Bulter, in May when he spoke of introducing the biggest nicotine reforms in a decade.
A $234 million package is being allocated to stamp out vaping among young people. $63 million will be spent on a public health campaign to inform young people of the dangers of vaping. However, no laws have yet been introduced to Parliament to support the upcoming crackdown.
Other states have been more proactive in their approach. In March, Queensland announced that it would be launching an investigation into vaping in the state. New laws are expected to support the outcome of this investigation.
Western Australia has also seized 43,000 illegal vapes in the last 12 months as part of their own crackdown. However, only one person has so far been prosecuted for possession. It’s thought this kind of approach is a precursor to national policy.
While vapes aren’t expected to be “banned” as such, they will become harder to access. The prescription-only model will close the personal importation loophole whereby vaping devices will no longer be allowed to be purchased from overseas. It’s this loophole, created by changes brought in under the Coalition, that has allowed the black market to flourish.
Instead, vapes will have to be obtained through a pharmacist. The range and choice available in this new model is expected to be limited.
Recently revealed emails from experts consulted on the policy show that health bodies are concerned the changes will fuel the black market.
They are also worried that media outlets are inflaming a moral panic about vaping and that state and federal health ministers have been receiving poor advice.
The upcoming national ban will see Australia become the first Western nation to make the smoking cessation devices thought to be 95% safer than cigarettes harder to access than tobacco.
The state-level crackdown appears to be spreading, with news this morning of 25,000 allegedly illegal vapes seized following a police raid on a store in central Melbourne.
The raid was conducted on Thursday night on a business in Swanston Street. Police have said the items seized are worth roughly $800,000 and that the raid is about setting a precedent.
“We will continue to focus on actively disrupting this activity,” Sergeant Matt Jerabek said.
“This should send a very clear message to anyone in the city thinking of selling items illegally for an easy dollar.”