The Butler ‘plan to ban’. Where are we now?

Posted on May 3, 2023 By Colin

MANY VAPERS AND RETAILERS have contacted me, understandably confused and distressed by Mark Butler’s “plan to ban” vaping. The misguided crackdown is based on a moral panic about youth vaping and will be a disaster for smokers and vapers.  I have prepared a list of answers to the common questions, based on what we know so far. [updated 13 June 2023]

Although a broad outline has been provided, many of the details have not yet been finalised, legislation has not been passed and things may change. Vapers still have the opportunity to express their disapproval (see at end).

Can I still vape?

Yes. Under the new rules, it will be legal to vape nicotine, but you will have to find a doctor willing to prescribe nicotine, get a prescription and find a pharmacist who will dispense your preferred product. All doctors will be able to write nicotine prescriptions, although it is likely that very few will do so due to the constant negative messaging from health authorities and the lack of an approved therapeutic product. The government wants you to visit a doctor every 3 months, although it is not clear if this will be flexible.

While vapers must jump through hoops, deadly tobacco cigarettes remain freely available at 20,000 outlets and the government is increasing the tobacco tax again.

Can I import nicotine e-liquid from overseas?

On 31 May 2023, the Minister said that only products destined for pharmacy sale on prescription can be imported:

"We will do everything we can to stop the import of products that are not captured by our regulatory or therapeutic stream, which is approved products that comply with a whole range of criteria set out by the TGA, which are destined only for therapeutic sale through a pharmacy on prescription"

This indicates that the Personal Importation Scheme will be abolished. In other words, you will not be able to legally import your own supplies of nicotine e-liquid or nicotine-free e-liquid

However, even the head of the Australian Border Force has acknowledged that very few imports are likely to be detected. No funding has been allocated to the Border Force to detect vapes and they are a low priority compared to firearms, heroin and child sexual abuse material.

Will the nicotine limit be reduced?

The maximum nicotine concentration of 100mg/mL nicotine base will be reduced, but it is not clear by how much. It would not be surprising if Mr Butler’s advisers suggest a limit of 20mg/mL as in the EU and Canada. This will be too low to allow mixing or DIY (do-it-yourself) vaping. It would also not be high enough for most pod vapes and would not satisfy heavy smokers. Some current vapers may also relapse to smoking.

What about containers and packaging?

The volume of e-liquid containers will be regulated, but no maximum bottle size has been announced. Packaging will be simplified. “Plain packaging” like cigarettes (yukky green packs) is possible, but more likely is a simple design as for medicines, without images, attractive colouring or appealing designs.

What about flavours?

Flavours are to be restricted. This could mean that the number of flavours will be limited, for example just tobacco and menthol, or perhaps that a small range of approved flavours will be allowed. It is likely that flavour descriptors will be simplified to simple names, such as ‘blueberry’ or ‘mint’. Youth appealing names are likely to be banned.

What about disposables?

All single-use disposables will be banned. Most disposables are currently purchased from the black market and are already banned. Mr Butler wants the States and Territories to increase policing to crack down on these sales from tobacconists and convenience stores. However, the black market will go underground and will continue to find a way to maintain a supply.

High quality regulated disposable vapes will also be banned.

What will happen to vape shops?

Regrettably, it is likely that most retail and online vape shops will close. A growing number have already done so

Vape shops will be able to sell refillable devices, accessories and nicotine-free liquids. However, the sale of nicotine-free liquids will plummet. Doctors will be reluctant to prescribe high concentrations of nicotine for mixing with nicotine-free liquids.

This means the closure of hundreds of small businesses and the loss of thousands of jobs, which appears to be of no concern to the Minister. This is a disaster as vape shops provide invaluable advice and support to help smokers quit.

In his plan to eliminate the black market, which of course will fail, Mr Butler may inadvertently destroy the legal retail vape industry and increase smoking rates.

How long before the new restrictions kick in?

No timeline was given, but new legislation is required and it is likely to take several months before the new rules apply.

What can you do?

Don’t despair! The current regulations are still being fine tuned and are not locked in. Many of the details have not yet been finalised. However, you need to make your concerns known, LOUDLY

Channel your fear and anxiety into anger and a determination to protect your right to health. Politicians will listen if there is enough noise and community concern.

Legalise Vaping have set up a facility to make finding and contacting your local MPs easy, here. Please do this today

Remember that in 2020, Greg Hunt attempted to introduce similar draconian restrictions. This plan was withdrawn after vapers and other stakeholders voiced their anger. Who knows what will happen this time.


National Press Club speech, Minister for Health. Transcript 2 May 2023

Media release. Taking Action on Smoking and Vaping. Minister for Health. 2 May 2023

Cohen JA et al. Australia tightens its prescription-only regulation of e-cigarettes. British Medical Journal 6 June 2023

Speech by Senator Hollie Hughes. Vaping ban equals more government control and more black market. June 2023

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