May 30, 2022 13 min read
Aussie Vapers Left In State Of Confusion Over Introduction Of New Nicotine Laws.
The Sale of Vaping Products Without Nicotine IS Still Legal...
However there has been new legislation introduced relating to nicotine and nicotine sales or products containing nicotine. When did this happen, who is doing it, how are they doing it & what one can expect should they be caught doing the wrong thing?
New Laws Have Taken Effect..
The laws surrounding Nicotine and E-liquids containing Nicotine have changed again today in Australia, and even though they don’t change anything here at Vapeyou, they are nonetheless terrible news.
I have focused on the laws relating specifically to QLD as that’s where we are based however these laws have come into affect in other states too, though the specific regulations will differ state to state.
As anyone who shops or has shopped at Vapeyou in the last couple of years already knows- we do not stock any nicotine products or products containing nicotine at all and haven’t for a long time now.
So really todays change of legislation coming into effect does not change much for us. There are no laws against the sales of Vape goods that do not contain nicotine being changed so it’s business as usual for us. Having said that, there are alot of other stores who will be affected by this and we absolutely have to feel for them at this time, as it has already been a difficult year as it is and this is just another blow.
New Laws That Are Qld Specific:
-Liquid nicotine cannot be sold without approval from the Ministry of Health. No retailer has been granted this approval.
-Sales of vaporisers (without nicotine) is legal, however they cannot be sold from a vending machine or cannot be displayed in a retail outlet. Sales from booths, tents, market stalls or temporary structure are prohibited.
-Vape goods cannot be sold from more than one point of sale.
-Sale to minors: <18 years vape sales is an offence, punishable by law.
-No free samples or sponsorship -Absolutely no mainstream advertising (Papers/magazines, Tv commercials, Radio or Google Ad's etc)
-Underage Vape Sales will be punished to the fullest extent of the law
-Purchase of Vape goods by adults for a minor is prohibited; Under the act, authorised persons have the power to seize a vaporiser that is in the possession of a person under the age of 18 years. Those caught either supplying or accepting products in this circumstance can expect to punished to the fullest extent of the law.
The following is an excerpt from the official QLD Health website that was current at 5pm today the 2nd of October 2021…
“Electronic cigarettes that contain liquid nicotine Under Queensland’s Health (Drugs and Poisons) Regulation 1996 (HDPR), liquid nicotine is regulated on the basis that it is classified as a ‘Dangerous Poison’ under Schedule 7 of the federal ‘Poisons Standard’, which is published on the Therapeutic Goods Administration (‘TGA’) website.
Accordingly, in Queensland, liquid nicotine is: A ‘S7 poison’ and a ‘regulated poison’ under the HDPR; Except when in preparations for human therapeutic use and provided as ‘Prescription Only Medicine’ as provided by Schedule 4 of the Poisons Standard. In that case liquid nicotine will be a ‘S4 restricted drug’ under the HDPR the use or supply of which is by or on the order of persons permitted under the HDPR to prescribe and is only available when supplied extemporaneously from a compounding pharmacist on prescription or through other TGA processes.
It is an offence for a person to manufacture, obtain, possess, prescribe, dispense, sell, advertise, use or destroy nicotine, unless the person is specifically authorised or holds an approval under the HDPR. A significant penalty applies.
As at 30 June 2018, no electronic cigarette products containing liquid nicotine have been approved as a therapeutic good by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for sale in Australia. Persons seeking to access unapproved electronic cigarette products containing liquid nicotine for human therapeutic use may do so under the TGA’s Special Access Scheme, or the Personal Importation Scheme or Traveller’s Exemption.
Under these schemes, the prescribing doctor would need to follow requirements prescribed by the TGA. Please contact the TGA for more information. The requirements applicable to a ‘restricted drug’ under the HDPR would also apply. Electronic cigarettes containing liquid nicotine can be safely disposed of at a community pharmacy or a local public health unit. To report illegal sale or possession of electronic cigarettes containing liquid nicotine, call 13 QGOV (13 74 68).”
Furthermore, relating to liquid nicotine sales from the official TGA (Theraputic Goods Ass) this statement was released:
"Nicotine vaping laws are changing 3 September 2021 From 1 October 2021 you will no longer be able to legally buy nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine, from overseas websites without first getting a prescription. Learn more about the changes and what you’ll need to do. Nicotine vaping products contain nicotine salt or base in solution and are heated using a vaping device to make aerosol for inhalation (‘vaping’). The products captured by the changes include: nicotine e-cigarettes nicotine pods liquid nicotine (also known as E-Liquid).
Products not captured by the changes include:
nicotine replacement therapies, such as sprays, patches, lozenges, chews and gums vaping products that do not contain nicotine.
These changes will not affect heat-not-burn tobacco, and many other tobacco products, that are only to be imported for commercial or personal use with a permit from Australian Border Force. A valid doctor’s prescription will continue to be required to access these products domestically.
What laws are changing?
From 1 October 2021 you will no longer be able to buy or import nicotine vaping products from overseas websites without a valid doctor’s prescription. These changes reinforce the need to have a doctor’s prescription before purchasing nicotine e-cigarettes from any source. This will make the law applying to importation of nicotine vaping products consistent with existing state and territory laws regarding their sale – specifically that these products cannot be sold anywhere in Australia without a doctor’s prescription.
Why are these changes being made?
There has been a significant increase in the use of nicotine vaping products by young people in Australia and in many other countries. Between 2015 and 2019, e-cigarette use by young people increased by 96 per cent in Australia. There is evidence that nicotine vaping products act as a ‘gateway’ to smoking in youth and exposure to nicotine in adolescents may have long-term consequences for brain development.
So, what products are we talking about?
The changes strike a balance between the need to prevent young people from taking up nicotine vaping products while allowing current smokers to access these products for smoking cessation on their doctor’s advice.
What will I need to do differently?
From 1 October 2021, it will be illegal to buy nicotine vaping products from overseas websites (as well as locally) without a doctor’s prescription. Your first step will be to book an appointment with a doctor to discuss your individual circumstances. They will discuss the various options available to help you quit smoking, including prescription medicines, nicotine replacement therapies and support services. You can also phone the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit the Quit Now website(link is external). If you have tried multiple smoking cessation treatments with little success, your doctor may provide a prescription for medically supervised access to nicotine vaping products.
What will my doctor need to do?
There are currently no approved nicotine vaping products on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG). This means your doctor will either need to: apply to the TGA for access to the unapproved product before they give you a prescription. We have a developed a simple application form for doctors to streamline this process, or provide you with a script for a 3 month (or less) supply of nicotine vaping products if you intend to use the Personal Importation Scheme to buy the products from an overseas website.
What if my doctor won’t prescribe nicotine vaping products?
It’s important that you seek nicotine and smoking cessation counselling from your doctor. Just like combustible cigarettes, these products contain nicotine which is addictive and harmful. They should not be your first choice when trying to quit smoking. It is possible that your usual doctor might think nicotine vaping products may be suitable for you, but feel that it would be preferable to provide you with a local referral to someone with more experience prescribing these products.
Where will I be able to buy nicotine vaping products?
There will be two main ways to obtain nicotine vaping products if your doctor gives you a prescription: filling your prescription at a pharmacy (either a physical community pharmacy or an Australian online pharmacy) importing from overseas websites using the Personal Importation Scheme.
Apart from pharmacies dispensing nicotine vaping to patients with a prescription, it is now illegal for any other Australian retailers, including vape stores, to sell nicotine vaping products.
Vape stores will still be able to sell flavours and non-nicotine vaping products.
If you are using the Personal Importation Scheme, you can order a maximum of 3 months supply at one time and a maximum of 15 months supply in a 12 month period. You should arrange for a copy of your prescription to be enclosed with the package the product is sent in. Australian Border Force (ABF) officials can stop your import at the Australian border if they suspect that it is an unlawful import. If you are travelling into Australia from overseas, you may bring nicotine vaping products for personal use if you have a prescription and meet the other requirements for the traveller’s exemption. How do I know what I’m buying? There are no nicotine vaping products that have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).
The TGA does not assess the quality, safety or efficacy of unapproved goods. Products purchased from Australian pharmacies must meet the requirements of our standard for unapproved nicotine vaping products. The standard includes rules about what information is needed on the product’s label, child resistant packaging, the nicotine concentration of the product and ingredients that are not allowed. We encourage you or your doctor to make enquiries with the online retailer about the ingredients, labelling and packaging, and manufacturing standards of the products. The Health practitioners and consumers using the Personal Importation Scheme’ section of our guidance on the standard includes a list of questions you or your doctor could ask the online retailer. Remember, it is illegal for any other Australian retailers, including vape stores, to sell nicotine vaping products.” - TGA
So, there is alot of information to take in there...
Basically, if you have been buying your E-liquids or disposable vapes from out of state or overseas because you have wanted to have them with nicotine you won’t be able to anymore unless you get a prescription and this will likely be time consuming and costly with the average prescription (online) reportedly costing a minimum of $85.00 just for the script itself.
Further, the wait for all the red tape surrounding your prescription going through customs and being cleared and finally making it to you will be extremely long as it’s now very strictly regulated.
So how are Customs and Border Protection authorities testing for nicotine?
The Illicit Tobacco Taskforce In 2018, the Australian Government formed the multi-agency Illicit Tobacco Taskforce to combat tobacco smuggling. The Taskforce combines Commonwealth law enforcement and border security agencies. With enhanced enforcement and intelligence gathering capabilities, the Taskforce disrupts and prosecutes organised crime groups at the centre of the illicit tobacco trade. (obtained from the official Australian Border Force website) Under Australian law, it is illegal to buy, possess or use liquid nicotine for vaping without a prescription from a registered Australian medical practitioner.
In Australia, medicines and poisons are listed in the Poisons Standard and are classified into categories called Schedules, which determine how they are regulated. Nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 ’dangerous poison’, along with arsenic and strychnine. (which you certainly won't find in a disposable or liquid!) The exceptions to this classification are: -nicotine in tobacco for smoking or -medicinal nicotine replacement products.
How the new laws are changing the importation of Vape goods at customs.
A new Nicotine Drug Test Swab which will detect Nicotine and Cotinine will now be standard procedure for Border Patrol and the K9 Unit at BNE Airport. Firstly, Customs run their specifically trained K9 unit through all incoming mail and imports that are entering Australia.
Detector Dogs are trained to identify a total of 21 odours and this is including Liquid Nicotine. Their presence and use is and has been standard procedure for all Customs & International Mail Facilities Australia wide for a very long time and it's obviously a no-brainer that the K9 Customs and Border Patrol K9 units are incredibly trained. With each dog specifically trained to detect a maximum of 4-5 individual scents- saying they are “good” at their job would be the understatement of the century!
The Use Of The K9 Units To Detect Nicotine The first tobacco detection capability was introduced to the program in 2014 & in the last financial year alone the Detector Dog Program was responsible for more than 800 illicit drug detections, (in QLD alone) and they detected more than seven million dollars of undeclared currency as well as intercepted more than four tonnes of tobacco products (which does include liquid nicotine) in the air and sea cargo environments.
For those of you who think these K9's can be outdone- think again!
If you have vape juice with a substance in it that dogs are trained to detect, then the dog will smell it, no matter how well the scent is disguised. Police dogs have long been trained to smell for things like micro SD cards, so sniffing out a vape cartridge honestly is not going to be a challenge for them.
According to a source at the Brisbane Customs HQ-
“Nothing can disguise the smell of tobacco, cannabis or nicotine; airport sniffer dogs are specifically trained for it. We have dogs who can detect a package of sealed drugs at the bottom of full 55-gallon barrel of petrol.” That's pretty amazing!
In short, these dogs will smell anything they have been trained to detect. For example, research published in 2019 found that trained sniffer dogs can accurately sniff out cancer in blood. Now, if these dogs can smell cancer cells, they can certainly smell tobacco and nicotine products such as cigarettes, juice, and gum. No matter how great of lengths a sender may have gone to to attempt to disguise the actual contents of the package or shipment, these dogs won't be fooled.
Once they have alerted the handler to a package parcel or container where they have traced the scent to, the package or mail item is then sent a lab for specific nicotine testing with 100% accuracy, at which time the TPA will typically begin an investigation of the sender and recipient.
What are the penalties now for possessing or attempting to possess nicotine?(without a medical perscription)
On and after 1 October 2021, any and all products without a valid prescription or licence can be intercepted at the border. These products will be referred to the TGA for investigation, and if evidence of a relevant prescription or licence is not available, the nicotine vaping products will be destroyed.
Depending on the nature of the case, education or enforcement actions will also be undertaken along with other enforcement options which include infringement notices, enforceable undertakings, and court action including monetary fines and for more serious cases, prison.
Some products imported or supplied, even with a licence or prescription, may not be labelled as containing nicotine. Where there are reasonable grounds to suspect they contain nicotine, these can be intercepted and tested for nicotine by the TGA’s laboratories.
Enforcement actions can be expected to be undertaken in these cases. For anyone caught attempting to import products intentionally labelled as nicotine-free and found to be actually containing it, expect harsher penalties.
Trying to conceal nicotine products labelled as non-nicotine products will be punished to the fullest extent of the law. At the very minimum a very substantial monetary fine would most likely be the best case scenario for anyone caught doing this. From 1 October 2021, the penalty for anyone found to be importing nicotine e-liquid without a prescription will now be up to $222,000 under the Customs Act 1901. The offence carries 1,000 penalty points at a staggering $222 each- Yes, you read that correctly.
Legally obtaining Nicotine
If your doctor is understanding- you will be prescribed nicotine. Obviously your Doctor is going to have to prescribe you a prescription should you decide you want to access it still, and this will depend on a case to case basis and obviously if your GP was to actually support the use of nicotine in a medicinal manner. If your GP does not know how to write a prescription for nicotine, you could perhaps politely suggest they visit the ATHRA website and log in to the Health Professional section for more information.
Word of warning though: doctors have been discouraged from prescribing nicotine by the Australian Medical Association and other medical bodies. You might need to go to another doctor. There is a list of Australian GPs online who have an interest in helping you quit smoking, are well informed about vaping and can provide a nicotine prescription if it is deemed as appropriate.
The list is at;
Prescriptions are valid for 12 months and nicotine liquid is not covered by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS). If you get your prescription you can import up to 3 months’ supply of nicotine e-liquid from overseas suppliers for personal use to quit smoking or prevent relapse under the Personal Importation Scheme. Most vapers order from New Zealand or China.
If You Are Intending On Having A Prescription For Nicotine Filled Overseas: It is important to send a copy of your prescription to the supplier to return with your order. If a prescription is not provided your order will be destroyed by the Border Force and you likely face severe penalties.
Products imported under the 'Personal Importation Scheme' must not contain other ‘active’ ingredients other than nicotine, such as:
-Stimulants or Vitamins
-must not contain Acetoin
-Pentanal (C5H10O) or 2-Pentanone Butane
-Vitamin E acetate
all of which are potentially very harmful.
And finally, a maximum nicotine concentration of 100mg/mL Nicotine to be within 10% of concentration must be stated on the label.
(Say no to taking up smoking again) If everything I’ve covered above has you feel more than a little overwhelmed, try not to stress too much, it’s still possible to buy your Vapes from any store who sells nicotine free Vapes and E-liquids. They are every bit as enjoyable, and while you might be disheartened that they might not have nicotine, let’s be honest- isn’t that the whole point? Using an E-cig or Vape to quit smoking is a fantastic idea so long as you are prepared to come to the realisation that at some point you won't be relying on nicotine anymore. It's amazing how many people I have met that have decided to quit smoking themselves using vaping as their means to succeed, and haven't actually considered that this requires an eventual end for having to depend on nicotine!
The end vision hasn’t and shouldn't change- Becoming Cigarette & Nicotine FREE! So yes a lot of people are going to find themselves arriving at the non-nicotine point now a lot sooner they they may have envisioned but it’s absolutely no reason to stop vaping entirely. It makes zero sense and it will ruin any hard work already put in. Let’s be honest- giving up IS hard and you should feel great about it when you reach your journeys milestones. Give yourself some credit for your success this far- and remember, depending on how strong the habit was for you it only takes anywhere from 18 to 254 days for a person to form a new habit and more importantly- on average, it only takes 66 days for a new behavior to become automatic…
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