MINISTER BUTLER'S UPDATED VAPING REGULATIONS are outlined in a recent Consultation Paper. Consultation has been sought as a box-ticking exercise, with 2 weeks to respond! Based on past experience, it is almost certain that the plan will be submitted for legislation with minor, if any, changes.
The result is The Butler Express: a train wreck in slow motion
The proposed regulations double down on the failed prescription-only model. Additional harsh restrictions will make legal vapes less accessible, less appealing and less effective. Ironically, deadly cigarettes remain freely available at over 20,000 retail outlets.
The revised policy is based on two flawed government-commissioned reports from the NHMRC and Professor Emily Banks from the ANU. Analysis of both reports in peer-reviewed journals here and here found that they contain serious scientific errors, misinformation and bias.
Both peer-reviewed critiques have been wilfuly and irresponsibly ignored in developing the new ideologically-driven regulations
'De facto' prohibition, version 2
Here are the key changes, assuming Butler's Bill passes through both houses of federal Parliament later this year.
Vapes will continue to be classified as medicines regulated by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, instead of as adult consumer goods regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission
Vapes will only be available legally from pharmacies if you have a nicotine a prescription from a doctor
Importation from overseas through the Personal Importation Scheme (including nicotine-free products) will be banned
All disposable single-use vapes will be banned
Flavours will be limited to tobacco and a weak mint flavour ONLY
Maximum nicotine concentration will be 20mg/mL in base form (or base equivalent)
All advertising will be banned
"Pharmaceutical-like packaging" will be mandatory, with a predominantly white background and only black or grey lettering permitted
A health warning, “This product contains nicotine, which is a highly addictive substance”. A much better alternative would be, "This product may be addictive but is a far less harmful alternative for adult smokers"
Maximum e-liquid volumes: 120mL for refills and 2mL for pods
E-liquid can only contain 6 ingredients: nicotine, propylene glycol, glycerine, tobacco flavour, mint flavour and water. A far better option is to have a list of prohibited ingredients, allowing more flexibility as in New Zealand, the UK and EU
Notification by importers that products comply with the new standards before marketing (rather than a pre-market assessment by the regulator)
Doctors will no longer need TGA approval to prescribe nicotine
Safety and quality standards for vaping devices
A list of approved vapes will be published online
Labelling to include nicotine content, expiry date and batch number, as well as contact details for the sponsor
All ingredients, except flavours must be of high (pharmacopoeia) standard
A list of restricted chemicals and contaminants that must remain below a given threshold
Enhanced compliance and enforcement measures at a state and federal level. Good idea in theory, however, unlikely to have a significant effect on black market operators. The only way to eliminate a black market is to replace it with a legal, regulated one
The likely outcomes
The new regulations are certain to fail. Vapers have already signalled their unwillingness to follow the prescription model. The demand for nicotine vapes will not diminish. Most vapers will continue to purchase products through illegal channels
It is impossible to intercept more than a small percentage of illegal imports at the border, as is the case for heroin, cocaine and ice
Criminal networks will continue to supply the vast majority of vapes, with money laundering, profits used for more dangerous crimes, gang and turf wars, murders, corruption of officials, extortion, intimidation and fire-bombing of tobacco and vape outlets
There will be huge costs for policing and enforcement, the justice system and prisons
The legal Australian retail vape industry will be decimated, with job losses, bankruptcies and loss of government revenue.
The proposed changes are a disaster for public health and the vape industry. They will result in more smoking and more smoking-related death and disease, as was the cases for the original failed regulations.
Sooner or later, regulators will be forced to accept that their harsh restrictions on vaping have been a resounding failure yet again, just as the war on drugs has failed. Butler's Express and the TGA will eventually be held to account. Toot, toot!