As of January 1st, The Australian government has implemented the first of several reforms targeting the importation and distribution of single-use vaping products. Here’s what is set to change.
The latest regulations have been designed to address a series of loopholes existing in the current legislature, allowing a range of harmful products to be easily distributed to underage citizens, with little to no health warnings accompanying their sale.
Over the last few years, the culture of vaping across the globe has experienced exponential growth, with a sizeable percentage of the Australian population embracing the accessibility, affordability and social acceptance of vaping products.
The latest reforms (with more set to come into effect later this year) represent a nationally consistent and concerted response to the growing vaping epidemic.
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Why have existing regulations failed?
Previously, thanks to exploited loopholes in the legislation last year, many sold as distributed products were incorrectly labelled ‘nicotine-free’. Individuals were still able to access nicotine vapes through a prescription from a qualified health professional or could import them from overseas with a valid prescription.
With no standardised packaging or health labels implemented within the industry, the only way to discern a nicotine-free product from one containing nicotine was with a lab test.
With free-flowing importation still occurring under the guise of nicotine-free labels, many manufacturers and retailers continued to sell products to young Australians, perpetuating a dangerous cycle of addiction and placing their health at risk.
The importation ban on single-use products is only the first of three regulatory changes set to crack down on vaping in Australia. In March, the importation of all other vapes, such as refillable products will also be prohibited for anyone without a license or permit from the Office of Drug Control.
Furthermore, the March regulations will also see all vape users only able to access vaping products from a pharmacy, a change that will address the current accessibility problem allowing almost anyone to purchase vapes from unregulated providers.
Finally, in late 2024, further reforms will come into effect, eliminating any retail distribution of vaping products regardless of their nicotine content. This final-phase ban will also apply to every aspect of the vaping industry, from the manufacture and supply of products to the advertising and commercialisation.
Essentially, any distribution of vapes will be prohibited outside of a clinical prescription framework.
Alongside the January 1st importation ban of single-use products, the federal government introduced a Special Access Scheme pathway, a program designed to facilitate the prescribed use of vaping products for therapeutic purposes.
Where clinically appropriate, nurse practitioners and medical practitioners will be able to prescribe select vaping products in a clinical setting.
Why these changes are important
The upcoming regulations will particularly crackdown on the harmful marketing of popular vaping products which have routinely been advertised to underaged Aussies despite their addictive and harmful potential.
In conjunction with vaping’s exponential popularity boom, health professionals and individual users are becoming more aware of the long-term harmful effects regular vaping can have on our health.
As the channels of distribution evolve this year to enforce standardised prescriptions, the vaping products that remain on the market for therapeutic purposes will be subject to limits on their nicotine content, and standardised flavours and will be restricted to medical-style packaging.
Even with the upcoming regulations and standardisation of vaping products across Australia, most remain unapproved therapeutic medicines that have not been subject to thorough safety testing, nor have been proven to be a more effective alternative to existing aids to quit smoking.