By Lewis Jackson
SYDNEY (Reuters) – Australia will ban imports of disposable vapes in January, the Health Minister said on Tuesday, the first step in a crackdown aimed at curbing the growing popularity of these nicotine-filled devices with young people.
The ban will be expanded in March to include all non-therapeutic vapes, including refillable devices, while importers of vapes for medical purposes will need permit from the Office of Drug control, Health Minister Mark Butler said in a statement.
The legislative package will also include a total A$75 million in extra funding for the Australian Border Force and the Therapeutic Goods Administration to enforce the new rules.
Additional legislation next year will apply the same prohibitions to domestic manufacturers.
“These are the vapes that have pink unicorns on them, bubblegum flavouring, disguised in order for them to hide them in their pencil cases,” Butler told a news conference.
“This is not a therapeutic good to help hardened smokers kick the habit. This is a good that is deliberately targeted at kids to recruit them to nicotine addiction.”
Despite one of the lowest rates of smoking in the OECD, a group of mostly rich countries, vaping in Australia is growing rapidly, especially among the young. Around one-in-five people aged 18 to 24 vape, according to government data.
First flagged in August, the reforms aim to curb the device’s popularity in response to research showing the potential for long-term harm.
To ensure the bans don’t limit access for smokers looking to quit, doctors and nurses will be given expanded powers in January to prescribe therapeutic vapes where clinically appropriate.
But therapeutic vapes will be restricted from using flavours, have limited nicotine levels and be sold in pharmaceutical packaging under new rules to be introduced next year, with a transition period for manufacturers to comply.
(Reporting by Lewis Jackson; editing by Miral Fahmy)