On 2 May 2023, the Australian Federal Government announced a strong and measurable action plan to support their campaign in stamping out illegal vaping. These reforms are considered the most significant smoking and vaping reforms in a decade in Australia. The Australian Federal Government will allocate $737 million to fund the series of measures, including introducing new controls on the importation, content and packaging of vaping products.
Current regulation of vaping products in Australia
Currently, nicotine-containing vaping products (NVPs) are regulated federally as medicines under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 (Cth). Nicotine-free vaping products are regulated under State and Territory laws in Australia and are generally legal for adults to purchase.
Consequently, NVPs can only be lawfully supplied by pharmacies in Australia to a consumer with a valid prescription from a medical doctor. It is illegal for other Australian retailers (such as tobacconists, ‘vape’ shops and convenience stores) to sell NVPs to consumers, even where the consumer has a valid doctor’s prescription. Current smokers can obtain a prescription for NVPs solely to assist in quitting smoking, following a consultation with a medical doctor.
Nonetheless, vaping products, including NVPs, are readily able to be purchased from a large number of convenience stores and other retailers throughout Australia. The primary concern identified by the Federal Government is the unrestricted supply of vaping products (including NVPs) to minors by these retailers.
The Federal Government’s proposed actions
Following public consultation led by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in December 2022 (see our article on the summary of feedback received in the TGA’s public consultation), the Federal Government announced its action plan in relation to vaping products .
The Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, has expressed his concern that ‘vaping is creating a whole new generation of nicotine dependency in our community. It poses a major threat to Australia’s success in tobacco control…’.
The Federal Government will work with States and Territories to stamp out the growing black market in illegal vaping. The Federal Government has announced that it will allocate $737 million in the 2023-24 Budget to fund the following measures:
- stopping the import of non-prescription vapes (for example, nicotine-free vaping products);
- ending vape sales in convenience stores and other retail settings, while also making it easier to get a prescription for legitimate therapeutic use;
- increasing the minimum quality standards for vapes including by restricting flavours, colours, and other ingredients;
- requiring pharmaceutical-like packaging;
- reducing the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes;
- banning all single use, disposable vapes; and
- preventing young people from trading their vapes for cigarettes.
The Federal Government will also increase tax on tobacco by 5 per cent per year over the next 3 years (in addition to normal indexation) and align the tax treatment of loose-leaf tobacco products with the manufactured stick excise rate.