Vapes get the plain packaging treatment

3 minute read

Farewell to mango ice e-cigarettes, hello to easier nicotine prescriptions.

Health Minister Mark Butler has pledged to put an end to pink unicorns, highlighters and bubblegum, at least as far as nicotine vapes go.

As part of the process, GPs will end up with more power to prescribe the devices for smoking cessation.

In a rousing address to the National Press Club today, Mr Butler outlined a new plan to quash the sale of illegal vapes at corner stores and newsagencies, putting the current regulations on blast.

“It’s a so-called prescription model with next to no prescriptions, a ban with no real enforcement and an addictive product with no support to quit,” Mr Butler said.

Former Health Minister Greg Hunt attempted to crack down on illegal vapes, eventually passing a ban on the importation of nicotine vaping liquids without a doctor’s prescription.

Plans to block the importation of some vaping devices in the same fell swoop were reportedly abandoned under pressure from other members of the Coalition.

Next week’s budget will include $30 million for smoking cessation support programs and a further $63 million for an education campaign aimed at warning young people about the dangers of nicotine addiction and smoking.

Stopping imports at the border will be a priority for Mr Butler, who proposes new regulations that would require importers to prove that the vapes they are selling are bound for a pharmacy and meet TGA-certified plain packaging and flavour standards.

“These are supposed to be pharmaceutical products so they will have to present that way – no more bubble gum flavours, pink unicorns or vapes disguised as highlighter pens for kids to hide in their pencil cases,” he said.

“Instead, we will have [pharmaceutical style] packaging with plain flavours.”

The RACGP and AMA have both welcomed the measures.

“You’re three times more likely to smoke if you start vaping,” AMA NSW chair Dr Michael Bonning told The Medical Republic.

“We’ve always seen it as a gateway that big tobacco has been pushing – and that is a critical distinction given that the tobacco industry has tried to shroud … the purpose of vaping.”

Another legacy of the previous government is a requirement for doctors who do wish to prescribe nicotine vapes for the purpose of smoking cessation to take part in an authorised prescriber scheme.

Mr Butler has pledged to do away with this measure as well.

“A script is hard to come by,” he said.

“Only one in 20 doctors are authorised by the TGA to prescribe vapes to those who need it.”

To solve that problem, the Department of Health will be removing the restrictions so that “all doctors can write a script for those who really need it”.

Pharmacies will also be investigated as a potential pathway to obtain a vaping script.

RACGP president Dr Nicole Higgins said the college would be working in partnership with the government on the regulatory changes.

“We stand ready to work with government on measures to boost the number of GPs who can prescribe nicotine vaping products and help people quit,” she said.

“My message to all Australians is that if you want to quit nicotine help is available.”

The Health Minister was clear on the fact that vapes would only be tolerated as a smoking cessation tool, and nothing more.

“We have been duped,” Mr Butler said.

“The difference between vaping and cigarettes is that cigarettes have been with us longer.

“If we knew [the dangers] back then, when cigarettes were being introduced, I would hope that governments would have snuffed it out immediately, which is what I want to do to vapes.”

End of content

No more pages to load

Log In Register ×