SA government launches massive crackdown on illegal vape clearances

On July 10, the South Australian government announced an eight-week action plan to combat the illegal sale of nicotine e-cigarettes. SA Health compliance officers will visit businesses selling e-cigarettes, including convenience stores, petrol stations and hairdressers, to check that licensees meet the new conditions.

‘Negative’ e-cigarettes are illegal

The first round of inspections will focus on making sure businesses are aware of the new conditions, and on products known to contain nicotine. The next round of inspections will then be targeted at businesses to see if they have the necessary evidence to prove that their products do not contain nicotine.

The strict new licensing conditions make it clear that it is illegal to sell nicotine-containing e-cigarettes and also require retailers to provide evidence that the e-cigarette products they sell are nicotine-free. Retailers will also be required to provide information about their e-cigarette suppliers, importers or manufacturers to facilitate product traceability.

The crackdown action plan over the past year has resulted in 15,000 illegal nicotine e-cigarettes being seized, including from non-licensed premises, as well as 17 fines and three licenses being revoked.

SA Health will be inspecting the various industries that now have licenses, including many businesses that have been subject to compliance action plans or complaints.

Businesses in breach of the new license conditions may receive penalties such as warnings, penalty notices, product seizures or prosecutions, which will be determined on an individual basis.

Since the publication of the new conditions on June 8, 2023, approximately 1,800 current and former permit holders have received information packages that include a detailed description of the new conditions.

To assist licensees in complying with the new conditions, information is also provided about nicotine-containing products found in other states listed on the Australian Medicines Board’s website.

These new license conditions are designed to combat the illegal sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes in various industries in South Australia. Now that these new conditions are temporary measures, the Federal Government is developing plans to stop the importation of over-the-counter e-cigarettes and ban their sale in retail premises and single-use e-cigarettes.

The vast majority of disposable e-cigarettes are ni-containing products

The SA Department of Health is increasingly aware of non-compliance with legislation introduced in October 2021 that classifies nicotine-containing e-cigarette products as prescription-only and prohibits the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes without a prescription.

Many e-cigarette products do not list nicotine as an ingredient on their packaging, unbeknownst to the fact that laboratory tests have confirmed that most disposable e-cigarettes sold in Australia do contain nicotine.

To ensure that e-cigarette products are nicotine-free, licensed retailers will be required under the new licensing conditions:
Immediately cease selling, supplying, possessing or storing e-cigarette products containing nicotine;
Obtain and retain evidence from their suppliers confirming that their non-nicotine e-cigarette products are indeed nicotine-free;
If the supplier is unable or unwilling to provide written documentation confirming that the e-cigarettes are nicotine-free, be sure to conduct laboratory testing;
Retain relevant documentation that can trace their products back to the supplier, importer or manufacturer;
Train employees and provide adequate supervision on the Tobacco and Electronic Cigarette Products Act (TEP Act), the Controlled Substances Act of 1984 and other relevant laws;
Displaying the TEP Act license, which includes the conditions therein, prominently in the place of business.

Any licensed retailer who violates the conditions of the license will face a fine of up to $10,000 dollars. Any individual or retailer without a license could face a fine of up to $20,000 if found selling or supplying e-cigarette products or tobacco.