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Australia's Dog’s Dinner

The Australian government pressed ahead with the introduction of its “world leading” Vaping Reform Bill but amendments have turned it into an even bigger dog’s dinner

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The Australian government pressed ahead with the introduction of its “world leading” Vaping Reform Bill but amendments have turned it into an even bigger dog’s dinner of disaster. With the Green Party forcing Minister for Health and Aged Care Mark Butler to make changes, harm reduction experts and the Pharmacy Guild of Australia have lambasted the resulting Bill as “a disaster and bound to fail”.

No longer will Australian smokers have to run around trying to obtain a prescription in order to access a vape – but Mark Butler’s solution has left almost everyone angry. The new Bill means that smokers and vapers will be able to buy from pharmacies, but they face a restricted choice of three flavours, limited product choice and a ridiculously high price. The Pharmacy Guild is incensed. The only implied positive coming from the situation is the acknowledgement that everything the government has done to date has been a failure.

Harm reduction champion Dr Colin Mendelsohn said: “The Bill has been marginally improved by removing the need for a doctor's prescription to purchase vapes legally in Australia. Nicotine e-liquid is being reclassified from Schedule 4 to Schedule 3 on the Poisons List, meaning it can only be purchased from a pharmacy, directly from the pharmacist-only (not the sales assistant). S3 products also are not subject to GST, reducing any government revenue from the change.”

The Bill now needs to be voted through in the Australian Senate in order to become law, but Dr Mendelsohn said that the law remains “fatally flawed” even with the amendments. As a positive, he added that it probably marks the end of “Australia’s de facto prohibition vaping policy”.

The Sydney Morning Herald celebratedtough legislation” that would clamp down on rogue traders selling illegal products, adding: “Australians will be able to buy plain-packaged nicotine vapes from pharmacies without a prescription from October after the Albanese government walked back its world-leading plan to outlaw all e-cigarette sales without a doctor’s prescription.

It became swiftly apparent that all was not as well as ABC News reported: “there are concerns that without support some young people could turn to cigarettes.”

The Pharmacy Guild said it “strongly opposes this proposal.”

The Guild made the following statement: “Pharmacists are healthcare professionals who dispense medication that provides a proven therapeutic benefit. No vaping product has been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration based on its safety, efficacy or performance. No vaping product is listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

“Vaping has long-term patient harms, including cancer, lung-scarring and nicotine addiction. There is limited evidence to support the use of vaping products for smoking cessation and nicotine dependence.

“The Senate’s expectation that community pharmacies become vape retailers, and vape garbage collectors, is insulting.

“The Senate is about to make a bad decision. We urge the Senate to change course.

“Everyone wants to keep illegal vapes out of the hands of kids and teenagers, but the Senate wants pharmacists to stock vapes next to children’s Panadol, cold and flu medicine, and emergency contraception.”

The Pharmacy Guild is absolutely wrong about its claimed long-term harms of vaping.

Consultant public health researcher Doc Stevens wrote on Twitter/X: “As a policy, it could not be more out of touch with reality.”

Dr Colin Mendelsohn added: “Vapers will not support this model.”

Writing on his blog, Dr Mendelsohn warned that the beneficiaries of this law would be criminals supplying the black market. In addition, “It is patently unfair that legitimate vape shops that have followed the law, never selling nicotine or selling to underage youth are going out of business without compensation. Owners, staff, and vapers are angry! Vape shops provide expert advice and support and have helped hundreds of thousands of Australian smokers quit. Their loss is a disaster at many levels.”

Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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