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Why Greg Hunt’s plan to ban nicotine imports and medicalise vaping will not work

Posted on September 18, 2020

GREG HUNT wants to ban nicotine imports and force vapers to go to the doctor for a prescription and then to a pharmacy to purchase nicotine liquid. ATHRA believes nicotine liquid should be available for sale as a consumer product so it can be easily accessed as a quitting aid.

Today we sent this flyer Liquid nicotine. Prescription or consumer product? to all federal MPs and Senators explaining why this proposal must not go ahead.

Low concentrations of nicotine liquid are not medicines. They are a safer consumer product used to replace an existing consumer product, lethal cigarettes. Consumer products are regulated by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission which can provide strong protection to the public under consumer law.

It should be easier to access vaping products than deadly cigarettes. It makes no sense for people to go to a doctor and a pharmacist to get nicotine liquid, when cigarettes are available everywhere.

NO western country requires users to have a prescription for nicotine liquid for vaping

Subjecting every nicotine vaping liquid to a rigorous medicines-quality assessment when cigarettes are largely unregulated is irrational. Low concentrations of nicotine liquid in child-resistant containers are low-risk products which cause minimal harm and are lifesaving for many smokers.

A prescription model won’t work

  • Vapers won’t do it. The current laws require vapers to have a prescription to import nicotine. ATHRA estimates that no more than 1-2% of vapers currently have a prescription.
  • Doctors won’t do it. There are less than a dozen GPs in Australia who are willing write nicotine prescriptions and 520,000 vapers. Very few doctors understand vaping or know how to write a nicotine prescription.
  • Pharmacists won’t do it. Pharmacists are not trained in vaping and cannot give advice to new users. The Pharmacy Guild does not support the sale of vaping products in pharmacies.
  • Manufacturers won’t do it. Most products are made by small to medium businesses which do not have the expertise, experience or budget to conduct clinical trials and go through the costly and onerous regulatory process for every single product. The tobacco industry with its unlimited resources will take over the market.

Other harmful effects

  • Providing prescriptions will add huge costs to Medicare. If 25% of vapers get an annual prescription, the cost to Medicare will be $14.6 million each year. If all current vapers comply, it will cost $60 million each year.
  • The black market will thrive. Illegal suppliers will fill the gap with unregulated and unsafe products, happily sold to young people.
  • Vape shops will be decimated. Vape shop staff have the experience and knowledge to help smokers make the transition to vaping nicotine. Vape shops survive on the sale of vaping liquids.
  • Costs to vapers will increase from the costs of regulatory compliance, doctor fees and pharmacy markup.
  • Product choices and flavours will be drastically restricted. Prefilled pods for popular pod models will most likely not be available.
Download and share the flyer

Liquid nicotine. Prescription or consumer product?

Posted by Colin Mendelsohn,

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13 Replies to “Why Greg Hunt’s plan to ban nicotine imports and medicalise vaping will not work”


As an ex-smoker I am very happy to have found vaping. I started smoking cigarettes at the age of 13 I'm 56 now. I have tryed most of the pharmaceutical products to stop with no success. Repeat, fail, repeat, fail, was the hopeless cycle I was stuck in. I have been successfully vaping for nearly 1 full year. I cannot express without tears of joy the releif it has given me. I have broken my tobacco addiction without the help of a doctor, & substandard pharmaceutical products. This government is WRONG to implement nicotine control in this current format. As a good & tax paying citizen, they will make me a criminal. I cannot accept this.


Greg Hunt. 2020 year of the Goose. So silly.
Not.much else to say, except frustration.


Exactly, Thank you !

The ignorance is outstanding.

Tom Morawetz

Colin, if I may, you rock. Besterest luck from NZ.

Darren Mirfin

I was a 30 a day smoker for years. Tried all available methods to quit, unsuccessfully. Until I switched to vaping 3 years ago. Haven't looked back or smoked since. Even my cardiologist approves with my decision. My health has improved in all ares drastically. If government wants to jeopardize the health of its citizens, it's patently obvious that this is just about federal and state government taxes generated from the purchase of tobacco.


This proposal is outrageous and unethical. As adults we can decide if we want to vape and where to purchase. Vaping is safer than smoking its proven. Legalize dont criminalize

K J Petersen

Tackling the minority nicotine product and/or user group is a long-established tradition in Australia. I remember when the Keating government banned snuff ( filthy stuff, but some people liked it). A niche product with a miniscule cancer risk, but so much easier to ban snuff than to tackle the cigarette manufacturers.
Equally foolish is the lack of concessions for excise on pipe tobacco and cigars. No one would argue that they’re harmless, but they’re so much less so than cigarettes. Why tax them at the same rate?


Consumer product

Vickie Beaumont

Mr Hunt, you haven't a clue on vaping. Don't make us vapers go back to smoking. Getting a Doctor to write a script in a rural area, what a joke. Not to mention the cost. You have lost my vote.


I nominate Greg Hunt for the 2020 Darwin award.
Greg you claim that vaping will start teens on a path to smoking. Why don't you use your brain and make the punishment for all nicotine sales to minors 1 million dollars and a mandatory 25 years jail for each offence. If you keep vape sales in vape shops you would be able to both distance the vape industry from cigarette sales and maintain a close eye on the situation. For someone who claims to be a smart man you are not very wise. You claim to be doing this to save Australians, so why can my 15 year old daughter walk into a local shop and buy chop chop over the counter as well as legally sold cigarettes. You have failed at your job as health minister, if you were ever serious about lowering smoking rates in Australia you would have taken a hard line on illegal tobacco products and sales to minors, not the people looking to quit smoking.

James West

I am a vaper and have discussed the prescription issue with my GP for nicotine e-juice. He has told me that in order to prescribe any Schedule 7 drug, he has to get permission from Canberra to do so which for him is a big inconvenience. Reclassifying E-Liquid with nicotine to schedule 4 would make it a lot simpler for the GP as no consent from Canberra is required.

As to licenced chemists compounding E-Juice with nicotine is not rocket science. They could acquire pure nicotine from various sources overseas legally, and simply add a few drops to any Zero nicotine e-juice that a client may present. There are numerous calculating apps available to show them how to do it.

As to selling E-Juice with nicotine pre mixed from a pharmacy, I suspect we would have a very limited variety of flavours available as seen with Nicorette products as no pharmacy in their right minds would stock the assortment of flavours available from various vape stores unless they decide to have a dedicated section of their pharmacy to vapes only. Some pharmacies I have surveyed said they might consider this but not many.

Dwayne may

Well mr hunt if you ban nicotine you will have to ban
Smokes and the nicotine patch and spray as well you say it will stop
The youn kids for vapeing the moving over to smoking but if you look all the youn kids are smoking and they don't start with vapeing
I was a 40 a day smoker 2 years ago i have not had a smoke in 2 years now I only vape and I am so much healthier for it now you can buy smokes at the garage so that's where the youn ones are getting there smokes from now if you regulate the vape shops only ones over 18 will be able to buy it so ban this and you have to ban all nicotine in Australia very thing that has nicotine in it thank you

jenny lea

Vaping stopped my smoking habit of over 30 years "dead in it's tracks" I charged my first vape and threw 3 x packets of ciggies in the bin I haven't touched one since Then question I would love Mr Hunt to answer is "just how many of your workers are closet vapors?"

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