Nicotine import ban means vaping will need a prescription

By Michael Woodhead

26 Jun 2020

[UPDATE: Since the publication of this article the Minister for Health Greg Hunt has announced that implementation of the measure will be delayed by six months]

New TGA regulations will prohibit the importation of nicotine products for use in e-cigarette vaping devices unless on prescription from a doctor.

The move, which has been welcomed by medical groups, will bring in a one year ban on the import of nicotine products for use in e-cigarettes while the TGA conducts public consultation on the regulation of vaping for smoking cessation.

Under the rules to be implemented from 1 July 2020, the importation of nicotine liquids and refill devices for e-cigarettes will require a valid prescription for the individual user.

According to the TGA, “individuals would get their vaporiser nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or nicotine-containing refills via a permission granted by the Department of Health to a doctor or medical supplier who would be able to import the goods using a courier service or by cargo service.’

“The goods cannot be imported through international mail. Passengers who arrive in Australia with vaporiser nicotine containing e-cigarettes and nicotine-containing refills that match a prescription they are carrying with them, would be exempt from the prohibition.”

There will be no change to access to TGA-approved smoking cessation products such as gums, sprays and patches.

The TGA said the prohibition on imports for e-cigarettes or nicotine-containing refills will be consistent with the existing ban in all state and territories on the sale of e-cigarettes containing vaporiser nicotine.

The ban is supported by Lung Foundation Australia, which said it opposed the use of vaping or heat-not-burn products produced by the tobacco industry as aids to smoking cessation.

“There are proven evidence-based approaches to smoking cessation that do not involve nicotine vaping and heat-not-burn products,” it said in a statement.

“E-cigarettes containing vaporised nicotine pose a significant public health risk through addiction to nicotine, and its proven harms to human health and wellbeing, and nicotine poisoning. Last year, in Victoria alone, 41 cases of liquid nicotine poisoning were reported.”

The AMA also welcomed the decision “to make it harder for Big Tobacco to get more young Australians addicted to nicotine.”

“Nicotine is a highly addictive substance, and there is no level of tobacco use which is safe,” AMA Vice President, Dr Chris Zappala, a respiratory specialist, said.

“Australia has done a great job in reducing the number of smokers, and we now have one of the lowest smoking rates in the world. However, we must not become complacent.”

“Big Tobacco has sought to promote e-cigarettes and vaping as healthy alternatives to normalise smoking among younger people. They are not healthy.”

The AMA  said it also wanted to see stronger enforcement to reduce the amount of illegally imported nicotine solution coming to Australia.

“The AMA is concerned about the quality of imported nicotine solutions. Some have been found to contain higher levels of nicotine than advertised, as well as other adulterants that may pose a risk to users’ health.

“The continued ban will also prevent non-smokers from unintentionally developing nicotine addiction, which can lead to traditional tobacco use. Given the experience in the US, this is a particular concern for young people in Australia.”

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