Disposable vapes containing dangerous levels of nicotine are being sold across the Northern Beaches, with many of them marketed to – and landing in the hands of – kids, warns an industry insider.
Vapes containing nicotine are now illegal in Australia else must be procured with a doctor’s prescription under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1966, where they are prescribed to patients over the age of 18 wishing to quit smoking.
This decision was made after it was found that there had been a significant increase in the use of nicotine vaping products by young people in Australia and in many other countries. Between 2015 and 2019, e-cigarette use by young people increased by 96 per cent in Australia.
The maximum penalty for illegally selling them is $1,650 per offence, six-months in prison, or both.
One local business, Tobacco Station Group (TSG) Manly Pty Ltd was convicted and fined $2,800 on 30 August 2022 for selling more than 100 disposable vapes illegally containing addictive nicotine at its Manly store.
Gareth Evans, Group Manager of Northern Beaches businesses Mixology Vape, and is not connected to TSG, contacted Manly Observer to warn parents that many other retailers are doing the wrong thing and allowing children to buy the vapes illegally. He said that he and other law-abiding retailers were frustrated by the lack of policing of the illegal sales and it could end up costing a young life.
Gareth Evans says a key issue is the sale of disposable vapes to minors, and that these often contain much higher doses of nicotine than normal cigarettes. They can become highly addictive.
“No one is putting their hand up to stop this. There’s even a [local confectionary store] selling these vapes to kids.
“Our biggest concern is that someone will die, probably a child, and that is what it will take to get something done about it,” Mr Evans said.
“The obvious solution is ban disposals altogether but the problem is the prescription legislation – if you have a disposable in your hand, you can either have bought it illegally, or bought it legally with a prescription. How is an enforcement officer in the street meant to know the difference?”
While the sale of disposable vapes is governed under federal law, state agencies such as NSW Health are tasked with policing and enforcing any breaches of the law.
Mr Evans said he had made numerous complaints to NSW Health about the breaches yet he had seen little action, due he says to the lack of staff NSW Health has to dedicate to the issue.
Mr Evans said he and other retailers had noticed a spike in the sale of illegal vapes during the past two years with Covid-19 and many people who had not previously smoked had become addicted.
Many of the disposable vapes contain up to 50mg of nicotine, which is around the same level as six packets of cigarettes, and many people become addicted quickly due to the high levels.
Manly Observer contacted NSW Health, which said since January 2021, over 135,000 ecigarettes containing nicotine worth over $3 million have been seized and 15 retailers have been successfully prosecuted for illegally selling them.
“NSW Health’s compliance activities are focused on physical retail stores. NSW Police officers are authorised by virtue of their office as inspectors under the NSW Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966 and can also undertake liquid nicotine compliance activities, including seizing illegal products and prosecuting retailers where appropriate.
“NSW Health is working with other Australian jurisdictions to share information and examine ways to improve compliance,” a spokesperson said.
However, many of these products can be also purchased online, which is much harder to police.
“The Commonwealth Government is responsible for customs and border controls, and compliance relating to the importation of these products into Australia,” the NSW Health spokesperson said.
A NSW Department of Education spokesperson told Manly Observer that the dangers of e-cigarettes were taught to students in the Personal Development, Health and Physical Education (PDHPE) K-10 syllabus and Life Ready course for senior students.
“Vaping and the use of e-cigarettes by students is a concern across NSW public schools. The current health impacts are clear – vaping and e-cigarettes are dangerous,” a spokesperson said.
“We’re taking action to deal with vaping in schools through a targeted campaign with NSW Health which informs our students, their parents and carers of the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes.
“NSW public schools also provide clear advice to our staff and students on how to report sellers of vapes and e-cigarettes. We encourage everyone in the community to report sellers of vapes to young people.”
The Do You Know What You’re Vaping Toolkit, developed by NSW Health,
NSW Cancer Council and NSW Department of Education, provides schools with resources to educate and inform young people about the dangers of vaping and e-cigarettes through a collection of resources.
If you think a tobacco or e-cigarette retailing law has been broken by a retailer in NSW, you can report this to your local Public Health Unit by calling 1300 066 055.
You will need to provide the details of where the law was broken, including the:
- business name and address
- date and time
- details of what you saw, for example, sale to a minor or incorrect display or signage.
Visit the NSW Health website to learn more about how you can report a tobacco/e-cigarette retailer.