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Australia’s ban on nicotine importation lifted…for now

Posted on June 27, 2020


PUBLIC HEALTH is the big winner from Health Minister Greg Hunt’s decision to delay the ban on importing nicotine. However, the fight to legalise vaping is far from over.

The Minister announced on 19 June that it would be illegal to import nicotine for vaping from 1 July with an extraordinary penalty of $220,000. A legal pathway for importation with a doctor’s prescription was proposed, but was complex and time-consuming and unworkable.

Shocked and angry vapers were faced with a very real risk of a total vaping ban and most were terrified of returning to smoking or having to obtain supplies from the blackmarket.

The Health Minister had previously commissioned a scientific inquiry into vaping in 2019, at a cost of $750,000, because of widespread support for vaping in the coalition party room. Surprisingly, the regulations to ban nicotine imports were made before the report was available

There was also anger about the underhand way the regulations were introduced. The announcement was made without consultation. The public was informed after parliament rose for 6 weeks with only two week’s notice before the regulations became law, in the middle of a pandemic. There was no opportunity for parliamentary debate.

The vaping community mobilises

The threat to effectively ban vaping galvanized the vape community.

A coalition was formed by ATHRA, Legalise Vaping Australia, the Progressive Public Health Alliance and ARVIA to challenge the ban in a coordinated fashion. Within days, a campaign was underway.

  • Vapers contacted their MPs and the Health Minister en masse to raise their concerns
  • A fighting fund was established to fund a campaign, raising $35,000
  • Coalition MPs Senator Matt Canavan and George Christiansen MP set up a petition which collected over 72,000 signatures in favour of vaping in a couple of days
  • A social media campaign swung into action with the hashtag #vapingsavedme
  • Vape shops contacted their customers to oppose the regulations
  • A video campaign of vapers telling their stories on social media
  • Advocates flooded the media on radio, television and online outlets
  • Opinion pieces were published eg here and here

Outspoken media advocates like Ben Fordham, Mark Levy and Neil Mitchell got behind the campaign. Former Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce demanded that people be left to vape if they wish. A toxicologist from the University of Wollongong warned that the ban on nicotine was dangerous and would increase nicotine poisoning.

Former Deputy Prime Minister, Barnaby Joyce MP, "let people vape"

Vaping opponents also hit the media to support the ban eg here and here.

Before long, there was a backlash from coalition MPs. A letter by 28 MPs condemning the restrictions was sent to the Prime Minister warning that "onerous regulatory requirements" will effectively ban people from buying vaping liquids and cause them to revert to smoking

They argued the rapid introduction of the import restriction is "too rushed" and "completely impractical".

Australia's 300,000 vapers are grateful to all the signatories:

Matt Canavan, George Christensen, Tim Wilson, Dave Sharma, James Paterson, Trent Zimmerman, Dr Anne Webster, Eric Abetz, Jason Falinski, Trent Zimmerman, James Paterson, Hollie Hughes, Alex Antic, Claire Chandler, Pat Conaghan, Perin Davey, Dr Andrew Laming, Susan McDonald, James McGrath, Sam McMahon, Amanda Stoker, Bridget McKenzie, Llew O'Brien, Ken O'Dowd, Gerard Rennick, Paul Scarr, Phillip Thomson and Damian Drum.

Vapers breathed a collective sigh of relief on 26 June when the Minister announced the regulations would be delayed.

In the meanwhile, it remains an offence to possess nicotine in Australia without a prescription. A list of doctors who are available to assess your suitability for vaping and can provide a prescription if it is appropriate is available here.

The battle is far from over

Minister Hunt plans to introduce a streamlined version of the regulations on 1 January 2021. Importation of nicotine e-liquid would still require a prescription, however details are not available.

Vapers want nicotine liquid to be legalized and regulated so it is readily available as a quitting aid for smokers but with access to youth minimized. Vaping nicotine, a far safer alternative to smoking, should not be more difficult to access than cigarettes.

Vapers cannot rest. Over the next 6 months, vaping advocates will need to build a case to stop the proposed regulations altogether. Hundreds of thousands of Australian lives depend on it.

Watch this great video by VIDA.news on the recent events, featuring Dr Joe Kosterich and Fiona Patten MLC

Posted by Colin Mendelsohn, colin@athra.org.au


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19 Replies to “Australia’s ban on nicotine importation lifted…for now”

Mehmood Bhamjee

The government is only going to use the 6 months reprieve to prop up further regulation to push through this totally unjust, undemocratic cash grab. Greg Hunt has done no research and ignored the thinking of overseas bodies to try and insidiously push through this law so the government can tax cigarette smokers to death. There is no concern for health here but government theft, nothing else. Vapers must now mobilise and use every available and legal avenue at our disposal to fight this ridiculous issue. In addition, the Liberal Party should be voted out otherwise the freedoms of all Australians will diminish right before our very eyes.

Mehmood Bhamjee

Regarding my earlier comments about voting out the Liberal Party, my apologies to the senators who opposed the vaping ban. My anger got the better of me and I did not take your support into account. I am upset at Greg Hunt and other ignorant politicians who are so short-sighted that they will do anything to take away the right of 1000s of Australians to try and quit cigarettes by going for a far safer alternative such as vaping. Vaping has certainly allowed me to quit cigarettes altogether and my health has improved noticeably. Why should I go to a GP for a prescription ? This ban is certainly in line with the profits of big pharmaceuticals and the tobacco industry and that's an injustice in the extreme. This makes a mockery of Australia calling itself a democracy. Vapers now need to mobilise and fight this proposed legislation. The 6 month reprieve is only to allow the government to make it look like it is acquiring more credible evidence to ban vaping. This is utterly unjust

Damian

Damn right

John Miller

If vapours need a doctors prescription so should cigarette smokers have to go to a doctor to get a prescription as it also gives the doctors an interventional opportunity including checking their carbon monoxide levels where CO monitors should be mandated for accreditation and for quality assurance in general practice.

Michael Bourke

This is not a win, this is a temporary reprieve. Now it's time to fight!

What have we learnt from this? I can tell you, that I am shocked at how helpless I felt when I first read about this astoundingly near sighted decision. My mixed emotions (mostly negative) were shared by others, but that feeling of helplessness was overwhelming. Thankfully to read we had some support in the hallowed halls of parliament (despite who it was from) provides some light. BUT not it is time for us as a collective to begin the fight, to rally together and lobby our detractors, not with knee-jerk reactionary, inflammatory and personal comments, but with the hard facts, and our realities as Vapers.

As someone who has been vaping for almost 14 years, I believe I have some knowledge and experience in the field. I have, and continue to do so, researched all aspects of it. I consider myself to be educated.

This is the time to "educate" our detractors, to provide them with enough information to help them make some solid objective decisions. A 6 month window is not long, so it is important now to come together, get organized and lobby. I have not read every article, but from my understanding the key support has come from the coalition, that is not enough, we need more support from both sides of the aisle.

There are 300,000 of us out there who have made the choice to vape, collectively, as one voice we can assert some power.

Michael Bourke

I am not adverse to some level of regulation of the industry. If that increases what I pay for my Nicotine, then so be it! I, like others, believe I get my Nicotine from a reputable supplier, but I can tell you that I have no idea what is in it!?! I choose to vape and would prefer to do it as safely as I can.

Ann Wallis

I have read the input given so far.

My viewpoint is taking a lesson from History with Politicians.

They like to leave their “ mark” regardless of negative or positive.

Such as introducing GST.

And currently with COVID Jobkeeper and Jobseeker, contributing to putting Australia into a Recession.

Hmmm, how can the Government recoup the millions spent without many being aware.

Hello vaping, which has been proven to not contain the poisons of cigarettes.

But that is irrelevant, as maybe their goal is to introduce a Tax on Vaping as it is 90% cheaper than overtaxed cigarettes.

And also irrelevant that hard working people on low and middle income who Vape for health and financial reasons, finally have a little breathing space.

And what is the sole contributor of all these positives? Vaping.

I personally have seen a person who was totally addicted to cigarettes, had a smokers cough, yellow nicotine fingers, switch to Vaping and lose his smokers cough and confidently say they would never return to cigarettes.

But will now everyone’s freedom of choice to taken from them, and they will resort back to cigarettes which are taxed to high heaven.

But hey, someone has to pay for COVID decisions, so why not make it the hardworking little person.

But what they are not aware is that these people are use to working hard for what they want.

And they want the continued Right To Vape!

Yvonne

I'm devestated this has come about I'm 61 years old I've been smoking for over 40 years . I've tried all methods and aids to quit without success. Then five years ago I found vaping. I feel better my friends and family do not find it offensive in any way. I don't want to go back to cigarettes im scared depressed and angry that I will be forced to do this. Finally I found something that works for me and you take it away. I'm not a criminal don't make me one.

Jan Deimel

I smoked 60 cigarettes a day for 40 years. I tried many methods to give up but never succeeded. Three years ago I was introduced to vaping. From the first vape I new I would not ever smoke another cigarette. If I had continued to smoke I believe I would be on oxygen by now. The government will be doing more harm than good if they go ahead next year and ban juice with nicotine. It dosnt contain any chemicals or poison like cigarettes. Jobs will be lost due to vapping shops closing down, people will go back to cigarettes and I believe more crime will occur with shop break ins to steal cigarettes because people won't be able to afford them. I will be stocking up just in case this absurd law is past next year.

Veronica Haines

So true

Ade lim

Ask all of the smoker to get the doctor prescription to buy a pack of cigarette and rollies too.

Toby

Australian fuckwittery at it's best…
The Aussie vaping regulations have always been harsh, and now they want to practically ban them.
Vaping saves lives!

Steve M Rodrigues

Didn't Phillip Morris try and sue our government for loss of income due to a trade agreement signed with one of the countries they have a base in?

Is it possible for vape companies to do the same from countries with similar trade agreements?

Greg Taylor

Typical Government grab for cash. They are not worried about our health. They know the 300000 capers will probably go back to smoking and pay the huge taxes associated with that.
I tried everything to give up smoking and vaping has been my only success. This is the Australian Government trying to follow what America tried to do. We need to fight this now.

Ann

Not a very well disguised effort to force reformed smokers back to the cigs and drum up some much needed tax to cover Job Seeker, Job Keeper, defence spending, extra hospital/medical costs…A 6 month reprieve just gives our government time to work out how "we" can produce the same products in Australia & how much we're going to tax it.

Barry O’Dwyer

Great work guys!
It’s ridiculous that you can purchase cigarettes but not e- cigarettes which are much less lethal.
If ever a decision by government reeked of expediency, e.g protecting their tax revenue from tobacco, this is a prime example. It was significant that the ban on nicotine imports coincided with a crackdown on cigarettes being imported without duty. The government is obviously under financial pressure from it’s economic stimulus packages so they want to plug some of the shortfall by getting extra revenue from smokers.
The government should come clean that they need cash and impose a tax on e-nicotine imports. Simple.

Veronica Haines

So true

JASON CREW

SHAME BLOODY SHAME ON YOU. I WAS A SMOKER 40-60 A DAY LAST YEAR MY GP TOLD ME I HAD A LUNG DISEASE. CHOKING BLOOD UP NOW AND THEN , I STARTED VAPING ON 13TH JAN 2020 AND MY BREATHING HAS IMPROVED A LOT FOR THE FIRST TIME IN TEN YEARS I HAVE A CHANCE TO STOP. I DON'T NEED BIG GOV STUFFING THIS UP FOR ME BY FORCING THEIR TIME FRAME ON ME LIKE ALL THE OTHER QUIT TREATMENTS.

Steve Smith

I am sick and tired of being treated like a baby by these morons running the country. I was a 25 a day man for 50 years , but quit smoking cigarettes in favour of vaping two years ago. From talking with acquaintances from around the world, it seems that Australia is one of the few nations that is anti- vaping. I am also sufficiently cynical to believe that the federal government, especially in light of current economic circumstances, is sufficiently ruthless to wish to recoup the taxes lost by smokers changing to vaping. If that is the case, then this is hypocrisy at its worst. We are the laughing stock of the western world. Roll on next federal election so that we may be rid of Scummo & his mates.

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