The TGA write: “In the states and territories, it is an offence to manufacture, sell or supply nicotine as Schedule 7 poison without a licence or specific authorisation. This means e-cigarettes containing nicotine cannot be sold in any Australian state or territory. Nicotine can be imported by an individual for use as an unapproved therapeutic good (e.g. a smoking cessation aid), but the importer must hold a prescription from an Australian registered medical practitioner and only import not more than 3 months' supply at any one time.”
Should the TGA’s decision to maintain this stance in March, it will only be legal to buy or import nicotine liquids if the person has a prescription from a doctor. According to commentators in Australia, doctors are very reluctant to do this. It means that vaping takes places in a hinterland that avoids direct regulation and risks including shoddy products.
Colin Mendelsohn states: “Australian smokers will be denied access to life-saving technology estimated to have helped millions of smokers to quit overseas. Those most affected will be from lower socio-economic and disadvantaged groups, which have the highest smoking rates and are hardest hit by the cost of smoking.”
The Australian Taxpayers Alliance (ATA) is equally unimpressed: “Despite the overwhelming international evidence of the life-saving capacities of vaping to save the lives of hundreds of thousands of Australians, the TGA recently decided to continue sticking their head in the sand and rejected an application from the New Nicotine Alliance to allow Australians to use this technology.”
The ATA describes the ridiculous decision as “pro-cancer”, and given that it will deny safer products to hundreds of thousands of smokers it is hard to see it any other way.
Mendelsohn illustrates the crass nature of the situation: “Vapers who try to quit smoking are branded criminals. The fine for possessing nicotine for vaping in Queensland is up to A$9,108 and the government encourages the public to report any offenders.”
Clive Bates indicates where pro-harm reduction advocates may be heading: “The final decision will be announced on 23 March 2017. We hope the TGA, its advisory committees and the responsible minister reconsider the initial decision, take another look at the evidence and do the right thing: accept the rescheduling. As I think our papers show, it will be hard to defend the decision in parliament or the courts.”
Currently the Australian government earns £12 from every £17 pack of cigarette sale. While some may be generous and say that these decisions are in the interests of the public, it is easy to see how allegations that they’re simply acting to protect their tax revenue arise. How much of that income is set to be wasted on lawyers if the TGA doesn’t see sense?