New vaping laws are “insulting”, major pharmacies say

New vaping laws are “insulting”, major pharmacies say
Image: Zeynep Demir Aslim, Shutterstock


Major pharmacies across Australia are speaking out against the new legislation that will allow vapes to be sold behind the counter.

As of Monday, July 1, vapes containing nicotine will be legally available for purchase only from pharmacies with a medical prescription. Under the rules, vapes must be therapeutic, in plain packaging, and limited to three flavours – mint, menthol and tobacco. 

Then from October 1, vapes will be available to purchase for anyone over the age of 18 from a pharmacy after a brief conversation with a pharmacist, and without prescription. 

The move comes after the Greens amended the Government’s original model, which would have required a GP appointment and a prescription, would create prohibitive costs for some users.

But major pharmacies and health professionals have spoken out against what is being called a significant “watering-down” of vaping regulations.

New vaping laws are “insulting”

The Pharmacy Guild described the new laws as “insulting.”

A spokesperson for the Pharmacy Guild said in a statement that “vaping has long-term patient harms, including cancer, lung-scarring and nicotine addiction… the Senate’s expectation that community pharmacies become vape retailers, and vape garbage collectors, is insulting.”

National Vice President of the Guild Anthony Tassone said the amendments compromise community health and do not take into consideration the safety or efficacy of vapes as a smoking cessation device.

“Pharmacists are healthcare professionals and community pharmacies do not want to supply this potentially harmful, highly addictive product without a prescription,” he said.

“Thanks to this secret, Greens-led deal, community pharmacies across Australia are being asked to supply nicotine-containing vapes without a prescription.”

Several pharmacies have also said they not properly consulted about the matter prior to the announcement. 

“We were gobsmacked, and after picking our jaws from the floor, we questioned why we were not involved in the conversation on this very, very important issue,” Tassone said. 

“Nobody wants vapes in the hands of kids or teenagers, but this is a rushed policy on the run.”

“These are not therapeutic products – we don’t know the long-term effects of these products on health and safety.”

National President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Professor Fei Sim said, “the amendment – if it was to pass the Senate in its current form – asks pharmacists to prescribe unapproved, unregulated, untested vaping products to the public. 

“This would not represent a health model,” she said, adding that the amendment also “undermines the role of pharmacists as health care professionals”.

Prohibition doesn’t work, say Greens

Senator Jordon Steele-John, Greens spokesperson for health, said, “The Australian Greens are deeply concerned about increasing rates of vaping amongst children and see increasing nicotine dependence rates as a significant public health problem.”

“The status quo in Australia is far from ideal. It’s unacceptable that children have access to flavoured vapes, and vaping products that have been entering Australia are unsafe, falsely labelled and have dangerous unknown ingredients,” he continued.

“The Greens do not support prohibition, that is why we have successfully secured changes to this legislation to ensure that vapes remain out of the hands of kids, but adults can access them via a pharmacy, and there’s no chance of individuals being criminalised for possessing a personal vape.”

In response to pharmacies saying they were not consulted, Health Minister Mark Butler said pharmacies were made aware of these changes when the government raised the option last year, and that the Guild did not attend Senate hearings of the regulations.

“I don’t accept that this has not been an option very clearly on the agenda for a considerable period of time,” Butler said.

Some health professionals view the amendment as disappointing, yet still a stepping stone towards vapes becoming less accessible to young people.

Becky Freeman, tobacco control policy expert and associate Professor from the Charles Perkins Centre and School of Public Health, said, While it is disappointing that the amended law will now allow vapes to be available as pharmacy-only medicines, instead of requiring users to have a prescription, this legislation remains a world-first approach to preventing easy access to vapes.”

“Monitoring and enforcement will be crucial to ensuring the law prevents retailers from illegally selling vapes.” 


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