Love it or hate it, vaping has become a big thing on the Beaches, particularly popular in younger demographics. A survey by our local health service (Northern Sydney) last year, suggests that our region has a “a substantially higher rate of e-cigarette use” than the rest of NSW.
There are some nervous mumbles, then, among the local vaping population as a raft of anti-vaping laws start rolling in come the New Year.
The crackdown will kick off with restricting the importation of all disposable vapes from 1 January.
Then, from 1 March it will be illegal to import and supply any nicotine or non-nicotine vape without approval.
Gone, too, will be the curious colours and flavours in any approved vape ‘juice’.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler confirmed in a recent press conference that only e-cigarettes approved under the TGA conditions will make it to our shores.
“Those conditions will include things like: they must be plain pharmaceutical packaging, not with pink unicorns on them and a whole range of other devices to attract young people. There must be no flavourings, they must be plain flavoured. They must have prescribed levels of nicotine.”
Non-nicotine, reusable vapes and liquids may continue to be supplied by retailers without a prescription, however, the government plans to change this law by mid-2024 restricting the sale of these products to pharmacy settings and in the flavours of menthol, mint and tobacco only.
The current border regulation is limited to nicotine vaping products; since these laws were implemented in October 2021 there have been over one million units detected, with an ABF representative telling the Manly Observer there are no signs of slowing down.
“As vaping products (without nicotine) have not been controlled previously, we are unable to estimate seizure numbers post 1 January however given the high volume of vapes in the domestic market we anticipate this will be significant.”
The kids aren’t alright
One in four Australians aged between 18 and 24 are most likely smoking vapes, including one in six high school students.
Non-disposable vapes have a colourful appearance, are often branded with cartoons and have become incredibly accessible to anyone through under-the-counter sales from retailers. Manly Observer is also aware of vape ‘dealers’ operating in schools and the public similar to any other drug dealer, often via snap chat.
This has caused major concern for parents within the Northern Beaches community, leading to representatives such as Mackellar independent Dr Sophie Scamps calling for action.
“We know that a lot of these e-cigarette companies are now owned by Big Tobacco and Big Tobacco knows that vaping is a gateway to smoking.
“We need to stop these single-use vapes coming into the country and being sold opposite bus stops where children get off their buses.”
Dr Scamps believes a necessary step to not only stop but prevent Northern Beaches children from vaping is education.
“I think it’d be a great idea to have more education for young people in their schools.
“A lot of kids who are vaping aren’t even aware that there’s an addictive substance inside their single-use vape. They’re not aware because it’s not labelled as containing nicotine, and a lot of kids wouldn’t know what nicotine is.”
Aside from incredibly high amounts of nicotine, a range of dangerous chemicals have been found in disposable vapes, according to the Lung Foundation Australia and NSW Health.
According to NSW Health, vapes are not water. The main ingredient in vapes is propylene glycol, vegetable glycerine or glycerol. They can also contain the same chemicals found in cleaning products, nail polish remover, weed killer and bug spray. They just don’t put it on the pack.
Vapes come in a number of flavours such as blueberry or bubble-gum that make them appealing. Many vapes also contain nicotine, the same highly addictive substance found in tobacco cigarettes.
Testing has shown that vapes labelled ‘nicotine-free’ can have high nicotine levels. People can think they are using nicotine-free vapes and can unknowingly quickly develop a nicotine addiction.
While the government says the new laws are being implemented to protect Australia’s youth against the harmful effects of unregulated vaping, some aren’t sold on the idea.
Brian Marlow, founder of the not-for-profit, Legalise Vaping, says the majority of vaping in Australia is black market run and these news laws are only going to re-enforce that.
“It [Vaping] is currently at least 90 to 92 per cent black market now. So prior to the prescription model being implemented in 2021, you didn’t have that.
“What they’ve done is failed to stop them, and they’ll continue failing to stop them because over 100 million of them come into the country every single year and Border Force have said on record that they can’t stop them.”
Mr Marlow added that he believes the laws will also lead to a rise in organised crime.
“The few remaining law-abiding business owners that are here, they will all disappear.
“Law-abiding shop owners told me that illegal shop operators actually come in and check their stores to make sure that they’re not selling any nicotine products because they don’t want competition. It’s effectively a turf war.”
The government is providing vape retailers with a grace period over the next few months to sell-down legitimate stocks of reusable, non-nicotine vapes but importing supplies in that time will be increasingly limited as any flavours outside menthol, mint and tobacco will be stopped at the border.
Legitimate vape stores will either need to heavily adapt or be legislated out of existence by mid-2024 as all vapes – prescription or not – will need to be sold in a ‘pharmacy setting’ subject to amendments being passed in Federal Parliament next year.
A local vape store proprietor told the Manly Observer the new laws were “nothing more than a government cash grab” and that his lawful vape business would be moving offshore as a result.
“It seems a wise time to move on, as we have never gone down the Black Market route, nor do we intend to.
“Banning vaping altogether when the TGA agrees it is a safer alternative to smoking, just seems like a tax grab by the Government,” he said.
Manly Observer hit the streets of Manly to ask vapers how they will respond to the change in vaping laws.
Young people should see their General Practitioner, youth health service, or other health services if they would like help to quit vaping (or smoking).
Quitline counsellors are available to answer any questions on 13 7848 (13 QUIT).