Proposed restrictions will have no impact on the vape black market – experts

Posted on May 3, 2024 By Colin

THREE EXPERT WITNESSES have told the Senate Inquiry into Vaping that the current vaping black market will continue unabated under the proposed legislation. No level of enforcement can restrict the established illicit trade and reduce its profitability.

All three witnesses recommended that vapes be regulated as adult consumer products sold from licensed retail outlets as they are in other Western countries.


Mr Scott Weber, Chief Executive Officer of the Police Federation of Australia, representing 60,000 Australian police officers explained that illegal vape sales are just “not on our radar”.

Government policy "has created a crime" and "law enforcement doesn't have either the propensity or the inclination to actually enforce it at the present moment." Police do not have the training or funding to intervene and “don’t know what to do”. Police struggle under "extremely hard workloads".

He explained their priorities were domestic violence, cybercrime, break-and-enters and that police simply do not have the time to assess and intervene with illegal vape sales.

He said the new reforms will not change anything.

Submission 12

Dr James Martin, criminologist from Deakin University explained that vaping had generated a classic case of moral panic that has led to a "de facto" ban. "The consequences of this ban have been disastrous, with nine out of 10 vapers having already rejected the prescription model and instead sourcing their products from the black market". Further restrictions "will do nothing to increase the appeal of the prescription model."

"Law enforcement does not and cannot restrict access to the point that consumers who want these products will be precluded from getting them. Rather, markets adapt, and supply goes underground, where it is even more difficult to police. The illegal products that are supplied by the black market are unregulated, meaning that they are more potent, more addictive and more dangerous than their legal alternatives. Increasing penalties and heavier policing do not stop criminal actors from entering the market. They simply allow them to charge more for their services and increase the profits available to organised crime."

"There is no level of government intervention that is feasible that can impact the profitability of the illicit trade in vapes and tobacco. It's an absolute disaster, and I don't think it [enforcement] is feasible in any sense."

"If those [vape] businesses were able to go back to a previous arrangement or, even better, something along the lines of the New Zealand model, that would decrease the demand for black market products."

Submission 25

Dr Alex Wodak AM has had considerable experience with illicit drug markets. He explained that expecting the prescription model to work is "a complete fantasy, and it's a fantasy on several levels". If there is a strong demand for some substance and if it is easy to subvert the controls, the trade will flourish, and that's exactly what we are seeing here." Police are unable to intercept illegal sales even with unlimited resources.

He added that severely restricting a much less dangerous option for nicotine users while a deadly option is available from 40,000 outlets makes no sense.

Simply, the black market can't be stopped and the new regulations are “unenforceable”

Submission 33

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