The Albanese government’s decision to ban vapes completely rather than legalise and regulate them will turn ‘one million Australians into criminals’ and only fuel the black market.
Nationals senator Matthew Canavan told 2GB breakfast host Ben Fordham he will push for amendments to the government’s tobacco bill to create a regulated legal market for vapes in Australia rather than an outright ban on them.
Health Minister Mark Butler announced on Tuesday the federal government’s plan to ban the importation of single-use disposable vapes from January 1 after flagging vaping law reforms in May.
Vapes have exploded in popularity in Australia as the price of cigarettes have surged beyond $40, prompting the new ban on all vapes.
Nicotine vapes will now only be able to be legally bought from a chemist with a prescription while the importation and sale of nicotine e-cigarettes, pods and liquids will be criminalised.
Pictured, young woman holding a vape while at schoolies celebrations
It is one of a number of federal vaping reform measures set for 2024 which aim to prevent children from developing an e-cigarette habit and curb an ever-growing black market for vapes.
‘The first stage of Australia’s new vaping reforms are set to commence on 1 January, with further protections implemented and strengthened over the course of 2024,’ Health Minister Mark Butler said in a statement.
‘These reforms will protect Australians, particularly young people, from the harms of vaping and nicotine dependence.
‘All Australian Health Ministers have agreed to implement a nationally consistent and concerted response to vaping.’
Mr Butler said the focus is on stopping the black market for vapes which sees millions of devices sold to young Australians online or under the-counter at some stores.
The federal government’s smoking reforms come just days after New Zealand axed its world-first smoking ban in a controversial move to fund tax cuts.
The legislation, introduced under former New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern last year, was designed to outlaw the sale of cigarettes to children born after 2008.
However, New Zealand’s new Prime Minister Christopher Luxon scrapped the smoking ban policy with the belief that a blanket ban on selling cigarettes would create a lucrative black market for tobacco products.
Leading vape advocates are calling for an urgent overhaul of the government’s reforms, claiming draconian laws will stop the huge black market for vapes.
National Senator Matthew Canavan told 2GB host Ben Fordham on Wednesday the reforms are bound to fail and will criminalise more than one million adults.
Health Minister Mark Butler (pictured) announced the federal government’s plan to ban the importation of single-use disposable vapes from January 1 next year, with a focus to stop black market sales of vapes
Mr Canavan said more than 1.3million Australian adults who vape will effectively have three options from January including going to a pharmacy, joining the black market or returning to nicotine cigarettes.
‘They’ll have to go to a pharmacy and try to get a vape, which is almost impossible as they’re hardly stocked,’ Mr Canavan said.
‘The second option is they will join the black market and they will become a big filler for the largely Chinese vapes flooding our country or they go back to smoking, which is the worst health outcome.’
Mr Canavan said he will be pushing through amendments to the government’s tobacco bill to create a regulated legal market without criminalising Aussie adults.
He added the government does need to clamp down on inferior vaping products from entering the country and schools as well as outlaw ‘ridiculous’ flavours that are clearly marketed to children.
However, Mr Canavan explained an outright ban on e-cigarettes will not rid the country its vaping problem but rather push the products underground.
‘I don’t vape and I don’t encourage people to vape or smoke but we’re all adults and we’re in a free country and people should be able to make their own decisions in a legally regulated market,’ Mr Canavan said.
‘The government’s efforts on this will fail, they will not beat the black market. We’ll end up in a worse situation with a greater supply of these products and more criminals pushing vapes on our kids.’
Under current laws, the importation and sale of nicotine e-cigarettes, pods and liquids is illegal, with vapes only available to adult Australians through pharmacists and with a prescription
National Senator Matthew Canavan will be proposing amendments to the smoking reforms, claiming e-cigarettes should be legal and sold in a regulated market
Leading academic and researcher in smoking cessation and tobacco harm reduction Doctor Colin Mendelsohn told Daily Mail Australia the reforms are bound to fail.
‘There’s a long history of trying to ban something and it just doesn’t go away, people just find another way to get it and that’s what’s happening with this current model,’ Dr Mendelsohn said.
‘We’ve tried this regime and what’s happened is the vaping market is now fully controlled by organised crime.
‘We’ve got a very resilient, highly profitable, well funded industry that learns how to get these products into Australia.’
Dr Mendelsohn said government bans on accessing vapes has created unintended consequences including a thriving black market, gang wars, fire bombings and a loss of taxation on tobacco products.
He suggested the government regulate the sale of vapes with the same strict guidelines and regulations that are in place for cigarettes and alcohol.
Doctor Colin Mendelsohn said vapes should be legalised and sold under strict regulations like alcohol and tobacco products
‘You can buy tobacco from 30,000 to 40,000 outlets around Australia and vaping products are at least 95 per cent safer and should be available,’ Dr Mendelsohn said.
‘So what we recommend is that the government make these adult consumer products, which would be available for sale through licenced retail outlets.
‘Retailers will have to adhere to strict age verification, including severe penalties such as loss of licence for underage sales.
‘It’ll ensure quality products are available to addicted smokers who are in urgent need of a safer alternative while also controlling the supply to adult Australians.’
A poll, conducted by RedBridge in October, revealed most Australians want the government to legally regulate vaping in the same manner as alcohol and tobacco, with 90 per cent saying they agreed or strongly agreed with legalising regulated nicotine vaping products.
The responders said they wanted e-cigarette items to be sold to adults aged 18 years and older through licensed retail outlets.
It would bring Australia in line with New Zealand and the UK, where there are strict regulations on the sale of nicotine vapes and e-cigarettes.
Illegal vapes displayed during a September press conference about the NSW Government’s $6.8 million crackdown
Association of Convenience Stores CEO Theo Foukkare said the poll showed there is major support for regulation changes from all sides of politics.
‘It found 88 per cent of Coalition voters, 90 per cent of Labor supporters and 93 per cent of Greens voters either agree, or strongly agree, that nicotine vapes should be strictly regulated and sold the same way that alcohol and tobacco are,’ he said.
‘Whether its parents dealing with the harsh reality of the youth vaping crisis, or adults who want access to strictly regulated products with ingredient standards, there is overwhelming support.
‘[Australians] across all demographics want to fix Australia’s black market vaping crisis by adopting the commonsense solution of regulating vapes in the same way as tobacco.’
Nearly 70 per cent of the people surveyed rated the government’s regulative efforts on vapes as ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’.
Mr Foukkare added the poll should be a ‘big wakeup call’ to all politicians with voters wanting leaders to ‘fix this mess now’.
‘All we have seen is a booming black market – littered with dangerous, poorly manufactured vapes that continue to fall into the hands of unsuspecting Australians,’ he said.
‘The continued failure to strictly regulate the sale of vapes that are manufactured to a specific code and sold as an 18-and-over product is becoming a major political issue for voters.
‘It is time for all politicians from across the divide to heed that message.’
According to a tobacco industry source, illegal products now account for about 25 per cent of all tobacco consumed, and the percentage is rising.
The Australian Border Force seized more than $11million worth of nicotine vapes in the past few weeks in a joint operation with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
The shipments were found entering the country, utilising both air cargo and international mail services.
Among the 35 tonnes seized, approximately 92 percent, equivalent to 376,000 vapes, had counterfeit labels falsely stating they were nicotine-free.
The Government’s reform also stated an additional $25 million will be provided to Australian Border Force and $56.9 million to the Therapeutic Goods Administration over two years to help combat the importation of illegal vapes.