Australians importing liquid nicotine for e-cigarettes will need to have a prescription from Oct. 1, reports The Sydney Morning Herald, citing the country’s medical watchdog.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said its decision balanced consumer demand for the product as a smoking cessation aid and the potential for nicotine e-cigarettes to lead to addiction.
“A patient’s doctor is uniquely placed to give the support required for long-lasting smoking cessation,” the agency said, adding that it had not yet approved any vapor product as a smoking-cessation aid.
In response to the TGA’s decision, the government will scrap contentious customs regulations, which included a fine of up to $200,000 for those illegally importing nicotine. The regulation was opposed by a large group of backbenchers, and due to kick in from the start of next year.
The possession of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes is illegal without a prescription in every state and territory, besides South Australia.
Health Minister Greg Hunt said it was important to note that any doctor could prescribe nicotine-based e-cigarettes.
“This is not widely understood, and it is an important matter of public information that over 30,000 GPs may currently, and in the future, prescribe nicotine-based e-cigarettes for smoking cessation,” he said.
Critics say Australia’s prescription-only policy is hampered by the reluctance of many general practitioners to prescribe liquid nicotine and by a requirement to seek a special exemption for each patient.