Australia’s health minister has postponed the proposed import ban of e-cigarettes and vaping refills until the start of 2021.
Minister for Health Greg Hunt announced in a media release late on Friday afternoon the government would postpone the proposed ban on vaping importations until January 1, 2021.
Hunt said the reason behind the initial push was the attraction of vaping, stating it could entice non-smokers to become hooked on the nicotine products. The government said it also understood some e-cigarette users were using the method to quit smoking. As such, the initial proposed July 1 deadline was deemed too soon for those users to make new arrangements.
"There is a second group of people who have been using these e-cigarettes with nicotine as a means to ending their cigarette smoking," Hunt said in the media release.
"In order to assist this group in continuing to end that addiction we will therefore provide further time for implementation of the change by establishing a streamlined process for patients obtaining prescriptions through their GP.
"For this reason, the implementation time frame will be extended by six months to 1 January 2021."
A six month reprieve granted for vapers
The extra six months, Hunt said, would allow e-cigarette users to either make the move to quit or organise a medical prescription. The time would also allow the review set to be undertaken by Australia's medical regulator, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), to go ahead.
"This will give patients time to talk with the GP, discuss the best way to give up smoking, such as using other products including patches or sprays, and if still required, will be able to gain a prescription," Hunt said.
"During this time, the Therapeutic Goods Administration will undertake a formal review and consultation process regarding the classification of nicotine in the Poisons Standard which will inform the implementation."
The proposed rules would see the Customs Act 1901 amended to prohibit e-cigarettes and nicotine liquid refills. Attempting to bring, or import, the products into the country without a valid medical prescription could result in fines of up to $222,000 once passed.
Professor Wayne Hall, a public policy expert at the University of Queensland told the Australian Science Media Centre the changes could inadvertently create a black market for vaping products.
“The proposed policy is a recipe for increasing the size of the illicit market in e-cigarettes,” Professor Hall said.
“A much better policy would be one that allowed the sale of e-cigarettes that meet consumer safety standards as consumer products to adults. These could be sold via a restricted range of outlets that youth are less able to access, such as tobacconists or adult stores, and sales from these outlets could be closely monitored.”
It's expected the TGA will deliver its report by early 2021.