Breaking: vapes to be available behind pharmacy counter

4 minute read

Parliament passed a diluted version of Labor's vaping legislation that will remove the requirement for a prescription.

The Labor government has agreed to water down its e-cigarette rules to win the support of the Greens in the Senate.

Vapes will still be illegal to sell outside pharmacies, and patients will still initially require a prescription when the legislation takes effect in July.

But at a future date, they will become available behind the counter at pharmacies without a prescription.

This change was announced just after 4.15pm today, with Health Minister Mark Butler to announce further details later this evening.

When the legislation was debated today, Greens health spokesman Jordon Steele-John compared the planned regime to “prohibition”, and expressed concern that addicted people would have the difficulty and cost of a GP appointment to get a prescription.

Earlier, AMA president Steve Robson said the federal prescription-only model had “not been given a chance”, clapping back at the Nationals’ plan to tax vapes like cigarettes. 

Labor’s crackdown on vaping aimed to ban the sale, advertisement, commercial possession and domestic manufacture of over-the-counter vapes. 

The Therapeutic Goods and Other Legislation Amendment (Vaping Reforms) Bill 2024 originally would have limited vape access to patients with a prescription to use the devices for nicotine dependence or smoking cessation. 

After labelling vapes an “environmental triple-threat” last week, Professor Robson came down hard on Nationals leader David Littleproud in an open letter denouncing the party’s “horrendous” proposal to opt for taxation of commercial vapes over supporting Labor’s bill. 

“This is just a tax policy masquerading as a health policy,” Professor Robson said. 

“Slapping a tax on vapes will do nothing to minimise the harmful impacts of vaping, and any perceived benefit from a lift in tax revenue would be vastly outweighed by the significant costs to the health system of an entire generation addicted to nicotine and toxic vapes. 

“Arguing for more funding for rural Australia is a worthy cause but raising that money from a new generation of kids hooked on nicotine, and more people going on to take up smoking, is a horrendous proposition.” 

Speaking on ABC News Radio, Professor Robson said that the Nationals’ proposal to regulate vapes like cigarettes valued Big Tobacco over the health of Australians and was built on a “total false economy”. 

“First of all, we’ve seen reports this morning that the revenue that’s raised from taxation of vapes in the US was feeble,” he said. 

“If we look at the situation with cigarettes in Australia – and this is the model the Nats are hoping to follow – the amount of excise raised from cigarette and tobacco sales in Australia every year is about $13 billion.  

“But the cost of the harm from tobacco and tobacco smoking is $140 billion.  

“Essentially, for every dollar raised, $10 has to be spent mopping up the harm of tobacco.  

“We think vapes are going to be exactly the same, so it makes no economic sense whatsoever.” 

Professor Robson urged the Nationals to support the vaping reforms in the Senate. 

“It is horrendous that the National Party has been accepting thousands of dollars in dirty donations from big tobacco companies and is choosing to ignore the advice of public health experts when it comes to vaping,” Professor Robson said. 

“Mr Littleproud and the Nationals need to put the health of our children first and say ‘no’ to toxic vapes; ‘no’ to harming the health of Australian children; and ‘no’ to the shameful tactics of Big Tobacco.” 

Professor Robson told ABC that the prescription-only model for vaping, which came into effect 1 March this year, had not yet been given a fair shot. 

While originally poised to release comprehensive guidelines to GPs on vaping in time for the inauguration of the prescription-only model, the RACGP’s guidelines remain under construction. 

The college is awaiting ongoing stakeholder input and is now set to release the guidance by the end of August. 

Provisional guidelines – originally written in 2011 and updated in late 2021 – for smoking cessation remain the current recommendation of the college for GPs looking for guidance. 

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×