Vapers told to head to the doctor ahead of new import rules

13 August 2021

Emma Koehn Source: The Sydney Morning Herald

The medicines regulator is urging e-cigarette users to make an appointment with a doctor before new laws kick in banning the import of nicotine vaping products without a prescription.

The laws will mean vapers must organise for a copy of their prescription to be included in any packages being sent to them. Border Force will be allowed to stop imports and destroy products if they do not see a valid script, according to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA).

Australians also need a prescription to buy nicotine vaping products and liquids from Australian pharmacies.

“Purchase of nicotine vaping products from other Australian sources is already not permitted and will remain illegal,” the TGA said in guidance documents released on Thursday.

“These changes balance the need to prevent adolescents and young adults from taking up nicotine vaping (and potentially smoking), while enabling current smokers to readily access these products for smoking cessation with appropriate medical advice.”

The overhaul of regulations also includes a new set of requirements on businesses, with companies that import nicotine vaping goods required to follow strict safety guidelines.

Fines of up to $11 million are on the cards if a business imports products that include banned flavour ingredients, which have been shown to have negative health impacts.

These include cinnamaldehyde, which is used to create a cinnamon flavour, and acetonin, which is used to create a creamy flavour but has been associated with serious lung damage.

Patients who wish to use nicotine e-cigarette products need to contact their doctor, who can provide a three-month prescription to buy products overseas through the personal importation scheme.

Nicotine vaping products are used by many as a tool to quit smoking, but there are concerns their popularity is continuing to rise among younger Australians.

Around 14 per cent of 12 to 17-year-olds have tried an e-cigarette, according to the Australian Drug Foundation.

The Pharmaceutical Society of Australia estimates as many as 200,000 Australians use vaporised nicotine products.

The society’s chief executive Associate Professor Chris Freeman said earlier this year the sector would have to prepare to ensure they followed the TGA’s rules for dispensing products.

“The standard includes requirements related to labelling (e.g. warnings and nicotine content), packaging (child resistant closures), ingredients and contaminants.”

Pharmacists will become more central to vaping in Australia, as they will be the only place where patients can access liquid nicotine.

There are currently no vaping products registered as a medical product in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, though the regulator says it is “is working closely with several potential applicant companies”.

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