E-Cigarettes and the Law
Updated on Jan 19, 2024 • 4 min read • 20 views • Copy Link
E-Cigarettes and the Law
From the start of 2024, a range of reforms to the Therapeutic Good Act 1989 and the Customs (Prohibited Imports) Regulations are being introduced to further regulate and restrict the importation, manufacture and supply of e-cigarettes in Australia. The changes follow a series of reports on the harmful effects of vaping, particularly by children and young people. This page outlines the changes and the reasons for the reforms.
Why are the laws around vaping changing?
E-cigarettes were first introduced 15 years ago. There is now growing concern about the harmful health effects of vaping. Increasing numbers of young people have been using e-cigarettes and research has shown that vaping as a young person greatly increases the likelihood of smoking later in life.
E-cigarettes that contain nicotine are regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. In the past, they have been available with a prescription, either by purchasing the product at a pharmacy or through the Personal Importation Scheme. It has been unlawful to sell these products to persons under 18. However, many vapes that are sold online or at retail stores contain nicotine but do not state this. Many of these products are marketed to children and young people and are commonly sold to those under 18.
Under the changes, personal importation will no longer be lawful and vapes will only be available for purchase at a pharmacy with a prescription. A permit will be required to bring any e-cigarettes into the country (with or without nicotine) and there will be more regulation of where vapes can be sold, the flavours and ingredients that can be sold and how the products can be packaged.
The government has stated that e-cigarettes were introduced as a therapeutic product and not a recreational product. “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,” said Health Minister Mark Butler.
It is hoped that the changes will reduce the rate of vaping in Australia, particularly by young people.
Changes to e-cigarette laws from 1 January 2024
The first stage of the reforms came into effect on 1 January 2024.
From that date:
- a ban on the importation of disposable vapes has existed, with very few exceptions
- patients trying to stop smoking can seek access to therapeutic vapes through the Special Access Scheme
- importers and manufacturers must apply to the TGA for licences to import therapeutic vapes, and applicants must demonstrate that the product complies with product standards.
Changes to e-cigarette laws from 1 March 2024
From 1 March 2024, the following laws will apply:
- vapes must not be imported without an import licence and permit from the TGA (with an exemption for travellers bringing a small number of vapes into the country)
- importers and manufacturers must notify the TGA about compliance with produce standards
- the Personal Importation Scheme will cease
- quality requirements for therapeutic vapes will change
- a new medical device standard for therapeutic vapes will be introduced.
Under the new laws, vapes that are imported without the required licence and permit will be seized as unlawful goods and may be destroyed. The person in possession of the goods may be subjected to enforcement action such as infringement notices, enforceable undertakings or court action.
Responses to the changes
While many people have applauded the changes as being in the interest of protecting the health of young people, others have criticised the move.
Supporters of the reforms say that nicotine is highly addictive, especially to young people. Vapes are readily available, easy to conceal, and come in a range of attractive flavours and designs, all of which contribute to their appeal to young people.
Critics of the changes say that the laws will fail, simply forcing the products onto the black market and that regulation of the products would be preferable to banning them. Users of e-cigarettes have also pointed out that they are more discreet than cigarettes and do not result in a person’s clothes smelling of cigarette smoke.
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