Butler set to effectively ban all refillable vaping products

Posted on August 7, 2023 By Colin

IN A MAJOR ESCALATION of the crackdown on vaping, it appears likely that Health Minister Mark Butler will effectively ban refillable vaping devices as well as disposables. Only closed pod systems will be legally available in Australia with a prescription from a pharmacy.

The news was leaked indirectly in a recent blog by Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman, one of the Minister's inner advisers.

Chapman explained that under the new laws, the only legal nicotine vaping products will be sealed (closed) pod systems "where the liquid containing nicotine and flavouring chemicals and the battery that heats and vapourises the liquid will be sealed"

Minister Butler's advisers on vaping (SC on the left)

Under this plan, bottled nicotine refills for open refillable pod and tank devices will be banned entirely, even with a prescription. Chapman goes a step further and proposes that the refillable devices should also be banned from Australia as well.

This change will affect nearly all vapers in Australia. Currently only around 5% of Australia's 1.3 million adult vapers use a sealed pod device, according to research company EcigIntelligence. The vast majority use refillable models or disposables

Justification for the ban

Chapman’s justification for the ban is that the devices can be used to vaporise other drugs. However, his evidence is grossly misleading.

He quotes a UK study which found that only two out of 4,027 adult participants were currently vaping (last 30 days) a drug of potential concern with a nicotine vaping device. One vaped opioids and one vaped benzodiazepines.

Seventy four (1.8% of participants) were vaping a drug other than nicotine. However, 80% of those (1.4% of the total sample) were vaping cannabis using a dry herb vaporiser, not a nicotine vaping device. A small number were vaping alcohol and caffeine.

Dry herb vaporisers are very different to nicotine vaping devices and cannot be used to vape nicotine liquid

In other words the proposed ban of refillable nicotine vaping devices is based on the trivial finding of 2 people in a sample of over 4,000 who were currently vaping a drug of potential concern. No harmful effects were mentioned in the study

If vaping was not available, it is likely that these drugs would have been used anyway, perhaps in a more harmful way, for example intravenously for heroin.

Predictable consequences

A ban on refillable vaping devices will fail and will create predictable and harmful consequences.

1. A boost to the black market

If nicotine e-liquid is not available for refillables, organised crime groups will step up and import it, along with any devices needed. Illegal products will not be regulated and have the potential for serious outcomes such as the outbreak of the so-called EVALI, a serious lung disease caused by adulterated black market vaping oils.

2. Substantial cost increase for vapers

Closed pod devices are convenient and easy to use, but are the most expensive way of vaping. They will add a further burden for vapers on low incomes, many of whom are already struggling financially.

By my calculations, banning refillable vapes will cost vapers up to $2,500 extra per year, based on the average prices for two devices and a year’s supply of e-liquid

Annual costs are

3. More people will smoke

A wide range of vaping products allows vapers to find a device that works best for them. Eliminating legal refillables and disposables will mean that many users will be unsatisfied. Bans on vaping products have been shown to increase smoking rates.

4. Death of the Australian vape industry

The retail vape industry will be completely eliminated. There are currently an estimated 280 specialist vape shops that sell the hardware and flavoured liquid for mixing with nicotine. Some have already closed. Thousands will lose their jobs. Some owners will become bankrupt.

A vape shop in Adelaide

5. Support for Big Tobacco

Big Tobacco only makes prefilled pod/cartridge models, not refillables. Banning disposables and refillables hands market share to the tobacco industry, which is exactly what Emeritus Professor Chapman claims he doesn't want. Clearly an own goal, which also has the potential for Big Tobacco to take over the market.

Smokers shouldn’t be denied healthier options

Health Minister Mark Butler is treating adults like children. Teens do not use refillable devices. They are used by adult smokers to improve their health by quitting smoking. We should make this as easy as possible, not restrict it further.

Responsible adults should be allowed to make their own choices if they are not hurting others, especially if they are taking steps to reduce risk and improve their health.

We don’t ban cars because some people drive too fast and have accidents. We know that, however hard we try to reduce road crashes, some will still occur and that’s why we make car drivers and passengers wear seat belts and airbags to reduce harm.

In the case of vaping, the small risks pale into insignificance when compared to smoking.

What vapers need to do

Mark Butler is drip feeding the details of his plan to vapers. First it was to be a disposable ban, then it became clear that the Personal Importation Scheme (even with a prescription) would be banned. Now we find out that all refillable devices will be banned.

Vapers should write to your federal and state members of parliament TODAY to make your concerns known. You can do this easily and quickly on the Legalise Vaping website here.

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