This year the Australian and South Australian governments are cracking down on the availability of non-prescription e-cigarettes – plus where you’re allowed to vape or smoke. So, if quitting vaping isn’t already on your list of 2024 resolutions, it’s time to make it a priority.
While it’s been illegal to import or sell nicotine vapes without a prescription since mid-2021, the stats show that the number of Australians vaping recreationally is still growing at an alarming rate – particularly among young people. New federal reforms are closing the loopholes in the existing legislation that have allowed people to buy nicotine vapes without a prescription – especially the cool-looking, fun-flavoured disposable ones that appeal most to young people.
Here are the details
As of 1 January 2024, it is illegal to import single-use, disposable vapes – not just the ones containing nicotine, but all disposable vapes. Until 1 Jan, the only way for the government to tell whether vapes being sold over the counter contained nicotine was by testing them in a lab. This meant a lot of stores had been importing vapes labelled as nicotine-free that were anything but, and many vapers were using nicotine without realising.
From 1 March, things get even stricter. That’s when the import of all other recreational vapes will be banned. The only therapeutic vapes allowed into Australia will be through importers with a licence and permit from the Office of Drug Control. These legally imported vapes will only be sold in pharmacies to users with a prescription.
What about ordering online?
For the people who rely on the internet for their recreational vape supply, there’s a crackdown on that too. Ordering disposable vapes from overseas for therapeutic use under the personal importation scheme was banned at the start of January. The entire personal importation scheme will end on 1 March. If you order any vapes at all after that date – even if they’re nicotine-free or you have a prescription – expect them to be seized by customs.
Tough new laws
The next phase of reforms, expected to come into effect in late 2024, will ban vape sales in retail shops altogether, regardless of their claimed nicotine content. In order to make this happen, the Australian Government will be changing the law to ban the manufacture, supply, advertising and commercial possession of vapes that fall outside of the prescription framework. That means only pharmacies will be able to stock vapes of any kind, and you’ll need a prescription to access them.
During 2024, the government crackdown will also mean product standards for those therapeutic pharmacy vapes will be limited to mint, menthol and tobacco flavours. Permissible nicotine concentrations for e-cigarettes will also be lowered, and the only packaging allowed will be the pharmaceutical kind that won’t appeal young people.
To introduce and enforce the crackdown on importing and selling vapes, the Australian Government is providing an extra $25 million to the Australian Border Force and $56.9 million to the Therapeutic Goods Administration over two years.
The South Australian Government’s role
This year’s vaping reforms will be backed by a national enforcement framework to stamp out illegal vapes in the community. The South Australian Government will play a key role to enforce the crackdown in our state, working with the Federal Government as part of a multi-agency National Vaping Working Group.
In fact, our State Government has been ahead of the game, with a blitz on illegal nicotine sales last year. SA Health officials seized around 5000 vapes and fined 12 businesses for selling e-cigarettes without a licence over eight weeks of raids and testing. Shops doing the wrong thing can expect more of the same in the months to come.
Clearing the air in public spaces
From 1 March, smoking and vaping will be banned in a whole host of public spaces as part of tough new State Government laws to protect the South Australian community.
On-the-spot fines of $105 and prosecution penalties of $750 will be in place for people caught smoking or vaping in a range of new prohibited outdoor areas including:
- On beaches between and within 50 metres of patrol flags and within five metres of jetties
- At and within 10 metres of schools and childcare settings.
- At and within 10 metres of non-residential building entrances, such as entrances to shopping centres, government and commercial buildings.
- At public hospitals and health facilities, private hospitals and within 10 metres of their boundaries.
- Within outdoor public swimming facilities.
- At major event venues.
- At and within 10 metres of playing and viewing areas during organised under-18 years sporting events.
The new zones significantly increase the number of outdoor places where smoking and vaping are banned, in addition to the current smoke-free laws which include outdoor dining areas, playgrounds and public transport shelters.
Why this is great news (really!)
Think a cheeky vape on a big night out might be harmless fun? Think again! The state and federal governments have some excellent reasons for killing your e-ciggy buzz, starting with wanting to keep you alive. There’s a very good reason nicotine was a popular murder weapon in Agatha Christie’s detective novels – the stuff is seriously deadly.
Beyond the bright colours and fun flavours, vaping has become a damaging epidemic – especially among young South Australians. The latest data, from the first quarter of 2023, shows that about one in seven 14- to 17-year-olds and one in five 18- to 24-year-olds are current vapers in Australia.
What vaping does to your health
There is strong and consistent evidence that young Australians who vape are around three times more likely to take up tobacco smoking compared to young Australians who have never vaped. Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death, killing around 20,000 Australians every year.
Not only that, but vapes – both those with and without nicotine – pose a whole host of potential health risks on their own, from seizures to impaired lung functioning. Like all illegal drugs, black market vapes aren’t regulated, so you don’t know what’s in them. Just some of the chemicals found in vapes being sold in Australia include the active ingredients used to make weed killer, insecticide and nail polish remover.
What if I’m quitting smoking?
Don’t panic! If you’re quitting smoking and want to use vapes to help you, things have actually gotten easier. From the start of 2024, a new federal government scheme allows all doctors and nurse practitioners to prescribe e-cigarettes as part of treatment to quit. In the past, doctors needed to fill out a whole lot of paperwork to register as an authorised prescriber and there weren’t very many who did.
The Government is also expanding and strengthening other support services to help Australians quit nicotine addiction with a $29.5 million funding boost. This includes money to support improved access to Quitline, the creation of an online quit hub and the redevelopment of the My Quit Buddy app.
For support to quit smoking visit besmokefree.com.au.
The Quitline (13 7848) also provides expert advice through options such as telephone counselling, text message support and personalised quitting plans.
There is also a range of services and information available for people who want to quit vaping. To find out more about the harms associated with vaping or how to quit, visit bevapefree.sa.gov.au.