According to the Dailymail, Australia’s Health Minister Mark Butler has warned that businesses selling illegal e-cigarettes to the market will have to find other ways to make money and rejected the idea that they should be regulated in a similar way to tobacco and alcohol.
The warning comes after Daily Mail Australia demonstrated how easy it is to purchase such banned devices, despite Butler imposing an import ban on disposable e-cigarettes on January 1 this year.
Approaching King Street in the busy Sydney New Town area, at least 20 independent shops and chain stores sell illegal nicotine e-cigarettes, illegal cigarettes and other devices. Purchasing an e-cigarette is as easy as buying a can of drink or a newspaper, in many cases without even requiring identity verification, and the average price of an e-cigarette is around $25.
Minister Butler told Daily Mail Australia: "The government will not sit idly by (this situation develops). I have said to businesses in this trading industry that they must find other ways to make money."
“Vape shops are deliberately located close to schools, an industry that is clearly targeting its products directly at children.”
In 2021, under regulations introduced by the former Morrison government, the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes has been made illegal, however many retailers are still blatantly selling these products in an illegal manner, and some even falsely label them as nicotine-free products. To fix loopholes in the previous regulations and crack down on the supply of e-cigarettes in convenience stores, Minister Butler implemented a nationwide ban on the import of disposable e-cigarettes on January 1, with retailers able to sell them until January 1 Imported stock, as long as it is nicotine-free.
Among the changes included in the draft design is that a new access method has been established to allow doctors and nurses to prescribe therapeutic e-cigarettes to ex-smokers or people who need to control nicotine dependence.
But former federal police officer Rohan Pike said it would be difficult for the Australian Border Force (ABF) to enforce the import ban on single-use e-cigarettes and the black market would continue to thrive.
Criminal gangs import e-cigarettes from China and sell them to retailers, thus boosting their profit margins.
"More than 90% of e-cigarettes sold in Australia are black market products."
Brian Marlow, director of the Australian Legal Vaping Lobby, said the import ban simply allowed retailers to charge consumers higher prices for taking on the risks of importing and selling these products. He said restricting marketing, setting product standards, giving licenses to retailers and imposing heavy fines for selling to minors would help clear the black market.
"Australia should follow New Zealand, the UK and other countries around the world in their laws and regulations on e-cigarettes," he said. "Allow the sale of high-quality e-cigarettes and regulate them in the same way we treat adult-only products such as alcohol."
“Getting this right will give adults access to a product that is safer than the Chinese disposables that are circulating and they won’t have the sky-high nicotine content.”
Minister Butler responded to Marlowe's suggestion: "The only groups that want to be able to regulate and sell e-cigarettes are the ones that stand to make money once children become addicted to nicotine – Big Tobacco and tobacco retailers."