Last week, the Federal Health Minister of Australia Greg Hunt said that the Department of Health was working with the country’s Border Force towards a ban on the importation of vape liquid containing nicotine. The measure was to go into effect on July 1st, and anyone caught violating this regulation was to be fined $220,000.
Hunt said that the delay to January 1st gives smokers enough “time to talk with the GP, discuss the best way to give up smoking, such as using other products including patches or sprays.”
This ban would have meant that while vapers would have technically still been able to obtain nicotine e-liquids via a doctor’s prescription, in reality not many would have managed, as only a handful of Australian doctors are willing to write nicotine prescriptions under current laws. Moreover, given the complex and time-consuming requirements of the new plan, even fewer doctors would have been inclined to write prescriptions following these changes.
As soon as this measure was announced, there was outrage and a number of organizations and entities who have harm reduction and public health, as well as 28 Coalition MPs spoke up against the ban. Australian Senator Matthew Canavan and MP George Christensen started a petition to overturn the import ban and to instead have it legalized and regulated.
Ban delayed for six months
Thankfully, in response to these actions Health Minister Greg Hunt has decided to delay the ban by six months. Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association Director Dr Colin Mendelsohn said it is a welcome delay. “I think the outrage from the community was just extraordinary. It makes no sense to make a far safer product hard to get.”
Hunt said that the delay to January 1st gives smokers enough “time to talk with the GP, discuss the best way to give up smoking, such as using other products including patches or sprays”. He said that “if still required”, vapers may still get the products by prescription.
MP James Paterson who welcomed the backdown, told Guardian Australia that “vapers will be relieved to hear they will not be cut off on 1 July from a product that helped them kick the habit”. He added that six months allows for time to prepare. “Six months gives us the time to put in place a system that ensures anyone who needs access to these safer alternatives can get it.”