Federal Government changes e-cigarette laws to allow Australians to buy them without a doctor’s prescription

Kimberley Caines
The Nightly
It is estimated an extra 1185 teenagers will start vaping each week without regulation on e-cigarettes, new modelling by the Cancer Council has found.
It is estimated an extra 1185 teenagers will start vaping each week without regulation on e-cigarettes, new modelling by the Cancer Council has found. Credit: The Nightly

Pharmacies will not be forced to stock vapes after the Federal Government watered down its e-cigarette crackdown to allow Australians to buy them without a doctor’s prescription.

It is estimated an extra 1185 teenagers will start vaping each week without regulation on e-cigarettes, new modelling by the Cancer Council has found.

Health Minister Mark Butler on Tuesday confirmed chemists would not be mandated to sell vapes after the Pharmacy Guild of Australia slammed the Commonwealth for walking back on its world-leading plan to outlaw e-cigarettes without a prescription.

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Labor struck a deal with the Greens to dump prescriptions for adults to clear the way for reforms, which will introduce tough penalties for unlicensed premises selling illegal vapes, to pass the Senate.

The legislation is expected to be voted on in the Senate on Wednesday.

Mr Butler said the amended bill was “a sensible balance between access and serious reform“.

“Pharmacists and pharmacies are already stocking vapes. They’re already selling vapes and they have been for some time — they were always intended to under these reforms,” Mr Butler said.

“Pharmacies aren’t owned by the Government, so they can’t be directed by the Government what they sell.”

From next week, it will be illegal to supply, manufacture, import, and sell a vape outside of a pharmacy.

A GP’s prescription will still be required to buy vapes over the counter in chemists until October 1.

It comes as the Coalition on Tuesday announced a plan to regulate vapes in the same way as cigarettes that would see them put in plain packaging and sold at places like convenience stores.

Shadow Health Minister Anne Ruston took aim at the Government’s plan to sell therapeutic vapes at pharmacies.

“This deal seeks to have vapes sold by completely unwilling pharmacists. We know pharmacists want to use their valuable time to provide primary care advice to the community, not become ‘tobacconists and garbologists’,” Senator Ruston said.

“Regulating the vaping market through strict and sensible policies will protect our kids from the harms of vaping, and it will protect our community from organised crime.”

Greens Leader Adam Bandt said his party watered down the rules because “prohibition doesn’t work”.

“History is replete with examples of politicians telling adults not to use certain drugs only to find that doesn’t actually fix the problem,” he told ABC Radio.

“We think it really strikes the right balance and it’ll be a pretty good start.”

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