In Queensland, only those in possession of a licence or prescription are allowed to have nicotine juices. Anyone else importing, possessing or using an eliquid containing nicotine could have a fine of up to Au$10,400 (almost £6,000) fine imposed on them.
In addition to this, Brian Marlow from Legalise Vaping says that, depending on the Australian state they are in, vapers can face up to 2 years in prison and fines up to Au$45,000 (over £25,000) elsewhere.
Officials have begun seizing packages at the border that they suspect may contain vape products. Contents have been despatched to testing laboratories and written warnings have been sent out to the recipients, including individuals and vape store owners.
A spokesperson for Queensland Health is quoted as saying: “People seeking to access unapproved products containing liquid nicotine for therapeutic use can only do so under the Special Access Scheme or the Personal Importation Scheme of the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Under these schemes, the prescribing doctor would need to follow requirements prescribed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.”
It’s a situation that baffles Marlow: "The fines are ludicrous. We should legalise it so people can access the products safely and the government can regulate and tax it. Legalise it, regulate it, allow it to be sold here so it can be taxed and benefit the people who are trying to do the right thing and get off cigarettes."
Professor Colin Mendelsohn opined: “Queensland Health is targeting vaping which is a life-saving harm reduction option for people who are addicted and can’t quit; they are being frightened by Queensland Health. Nicotine is not the enemy, combustible tobacco is. I have seen so many people unable to quit and repeatedly come back. They've tried the Champix (stop smoking aid tablets), they've tried patches and nothing works. This works. If you can help a person quit smoking that's the most important health intervention they'll ever have in your life.”
New Australian Medical Association President Doctor Tony Bartone supports the clamping down on vaping: "The products that are used sometimes contain harmful carcinogens, and we do not have the long-term data about the risk profile of them. We know that there are carcinogens of at least certain toxicity and the ultimate effect has yet to be proven. When the evidence comes through and it can be shown to be a therapeutic aid to cessation from smoking, that's when we will sit down and significantly look at our position and move in line with the evidence that's presented.”
The trouble with Bartone’s comments is that they sound identical to his predecessor, ex-AMA President Michael Gannon. Gannon was staunchly against vaping until the moment he left his job. Then, like Saul on the Road to Damascus (not a film starring Bing Crosby and Bob Hope), he suddenly appeared to see the harm reduction potential in vaping, evidenced by this quote: “When outgoing AMA boss Michael Gannon admitted to having run the company line while president and conceded ‘not even I agree with everything I say’, it was taken by e-cigarette proponents as evidence the fix had been in all along.”
Australia still has so far to go in respect to harm reduction and, with rising smoking rates, it’s laughable that anybody can claim they are at the cutting edge of tobacco harm reduction. Making criminals of people using a substance as dangerous as caffeine makes no sense – legalise it now!