Australian Public health expert Dr. Colin Mendelsohn has consistently highlighted that the current vape restrictions will be detrimental to public health.
In 2020, Australia’s Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt had announced a new measure banning the importation of vape liquid containing nicotine. A few months later the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced their final decision on the measure, “..the importation of nicotine e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine for vaping will require a doctor’s prescription.”

To this effect, as of October 2021, vapers in Australia are only able to purchase vaping products from pharmacies via prescription. While retailers in neighbouring New Zealand and most other countries are able to responsibly sell nicotine products over the counter, anyone caught violating Australia’s harsh regulations will face steep fines, and in some cases even imprisonment.

Australian Public health expert and tobacco harm reduction advocate Dr. Colin Mendelsohn agrees, has consistently highlighted that these restrictions will be detrimental to public health. “Australia’s requirement for nicotine prescriptions is complex, expensive and unnecessary and makes it harder to access vaping products than cigarettes. Is that really what Greg Hunt wants?” he said.

In contrast, to add insult to injury AMA President Dr. Omar Khorshid has written to the TGA to express his deep concern that it has published a list of authorised prescribers of nicotine vaping products, saying that these “masquerade” themselves as smoking cessation services.

“Although the TGA’s list is not intended to suggest endorsement, the mere inclusion of these online services gives them a much higher status than they deserve and means that the TGA is inadvertently directing patients to websites that provide misleading information around the quality, safety and efficacy of nicotine vaping products,” said Khorshid.

“I urge the TGA to reconsider publishing the details of authorised prescribers of nicotine vaping products so that the TGA can be fully satisfied that they offer genuine smoking cessation services in accordance with Royal Australian College of General Practitioners’ guidelines. As an immediate step, the TGA should remove any listing that offers online only services.”

Australia should follow New Zealand’s Successful Strategy

On the other hand, Mendelsohn believes that Australia should adopt a similar tobacco harm reduction strategy New Zealand. In fact contrary to the ones in Australia, Kiwi smoking rates are dropping successfully.

He highlighted that although the vape law in New Zealand is not perfect, at least it shows that the government understands the potential of vaping as a safer alternative to smoking. “The NZ regulations put Australia to shame. They are based on the evidence rather than politics and ideology. They are a model for good public health policy on vaping and will save lives.”

New Zealand: The Repercussions of Restricting Vape Sales to Specialty Stores

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