A new national ban on the sale of nicotine-containing vaping has reportedly failed to work, with specialty stores and convenience stores openly selling illegal goods. Black market sales are rampant, and vapes are packaged as children in the form of candy bars, at high prices. Experts pointed out that the government should strictly regulate e-cigarettes and allow the sale of high-quality and safe commodities.
According to the Daily Mail in Australia, shops in the country’s largest city are openly selling nicotine vape brands, ignoring a new government ban. Since January 1 this year, the import of disposable e-cigarettes has been banned across the country, and retailers have been banned from selling e-cigarettes containing nicotine. Health Minister MarkButler also stressed that “if you smoke an e-cigarette, then the New Year resolves to give it up.” However, Butler’s hit seemed to fade away, ignored by stores and convenience stores.
In Sydney’s trendy King Street neighborhood of Newtown, the Daily Mail found at least 20 independent and chain stores openly selling illegal nicotine e-cigarettes, illegal tobacco, and other smoking devices. In some stores, reporters held a plastic folder displaying dozens of different models and flavors that customers could choose from. Those flavors include apple, blueberry, watermelon, and iced mango, though Butler’s ban still contains nicotine. The packaging features bright colors and lively designs that make e-cigarettes look more like children’s candy bars than nicotine products. Prices vary depending on the amount of air the vape can inhale, ranging from $25 to $50.
The process of buying these strictly prohibited products is no different from buying legal goods. No identity check to confirm age, no secret whisper, just a straightforward credit card transaction in exchange for these contraband items. In an interview with the Daily Mail, Brian Marlow, Australia’s director of efforts to help legalize e-cigarettes, said this shows that government attempts to regulate e-cigarettes are not working.
“What’s interesting about this ban is that single-use e-cigarettes have never been legal in Australia and have always been banned,” he said.
In 2021, the Morrison government banned any Australian from buying or importing nicotine vapes or e-cigarettes without a doctor’s prescription. This brings the import requirements in line with Australia’s ban on the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes under state and territory laws.
However, many retailers and manufacturers try to avoid this law and regulation by falsely claiming that their products do not contain nicotine. Under the new ban, retailers have the right to sell non-nicotine stocks imported before this year.
From March 1, all non-therapeutic vapes and e-cigarettes for personal use will be banned from import. In line with the import rule changes, a new browsing mechanism will be established to enable doctors and nurses to prescribe therapeutic e-cigarettes on appropriate premises. Mr Marlow said the bans only allowed retailers to take the risk of increased imports and sales and charge customers more for vapes.
He also said criminal gangs importing e-cigarettes from China and selling them to retailers could also increase their profits. “More than 90 percent of e-cigarettes in Australia are black market,” he said.
For more than a million vaping users in Australia, you’re looking at a multi-billion dollar industry that the federal government has no real plan to legalize. “We are the only country in the world that faces such a serious problem,” he said
Marlow also said that such addictive e-cigarettes, such as IGET, are manufactured in China but are banned in the country and rarely used by residents. “But here we are keen to use it and have no problem exporting to Australia,” he said. Because we don’t have the right market regulation, we’re willing to break the law and face criminal charges. They’re willing to sell it to kids. We get criminals to take action.” Marlow said market restrictions, product standards, retailer licensing, and heavy fines for minors have also helped eliminate the black market.
Marlow said Australia should follow the lead of New Zealand, the UK, and other parts of the world in dealing with e-cigarette regulations. “Allow the sale of high-quality e-cigarettes and the same as other products that we regulate, such as wine,” he said.
“Doing so would give adults access to products that are safer than what you might see in illegal Chinese disposable products with high amounts of nicotine.”
“It will also break up the rampant black market for e-cigarettes created by the government.” However, Simon Chapman, professor of public health at the University of Sydney, said e-cigarettes needed to be strictly regulated and opposed calling the reform a “ban”. He said: “E-cigarettes are not banned, but they should always be strictly regulated. Anyone who says e-cigarettes are banned may also believe that every prescription drug made in Australia is banned as well.”
At present, the government is cracking down on the increase in vaping browsing by minors and the reason that new non-smokers are starting to use nicotine vapes. In a speech to the National Press Club in May 2023, Butler said, “E-cigarettes are not entertainment products, especially for our children. That’s what vapes are now.”
Butler blamed the previous coalition government for creating the perfect conditions for a rampant illegal market by saying they did not strictly follow legal prescriptions for e-cigarette imports and smokers.