An Australian industry expert has revealed that e-cigarette suppliers are circumventing Australia’s ban on Chinese-made disposable e-cigarette devices by selling them on the black market, according to a foreign news report On 14th, Oct.
The owner of one of Australia’s largest e-cigarette stores claims that a recent crackdown aimed at curbing nicotine e-cigarettes while allowing smokers access to products to help them quit backfired and helped the black market flourish.
On October 1, Changes to Australia’s nationwide e-cigarette laws (TGO 110 – Standard for Vaporiser Nicotine) came into effect, making it a criminal offense to import nicotine contained in e-cigarettes, cartridges, and liquids from overseas without a valid prescription.
Possession of nicotine e-cigarette products without a prescription is already illegal in all states outside of South Australia, creating a gap between domestic rules and importation laws.
Max Fichkin, who runs The Steamery in Sydney, said the law would not stop commercial suppliers from smuggling large quantities into Australia.
He says there has always been a black market, and the more the government tries to suppress it through legislation, the more the black market will flourish. Tobacco dealers, milk bars, and corner stores sell them under the counter. If you search keywords on Gumtree or Facebook Marketplace, a black market seller will deliver nicotine e-cigarette products to your home.
Until October, Australians are allowed to import nicotine e-cigarettes for up to three months – although in most jurisdictions it is illegal to possess these products once they arrive.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and the Australian Border Force (ABF) now play a vital role in monitoring illegal imports of e-cigarettes and e-cigarette liquids containing nicotine.
Mr. Fichkin said Chinese e-cigarette manufacturer HQD announced last year that they had successfully imported about 250,000 e-cigarettes into the country, despite pre-existing laws prohibiting commercial quantities.
He questioned the ability of Australian government agencies to deal with the large number of nicotine movers pushing products through busy ports.
The TGA and ABF tried to stop these shipments, but one company alone managed to ship 250,000 disposable e-cigarettes in one month, he said. With an unprecedented number of imports coming into the country, where do they get the resources to stop suppliers and require prescriptions?
Those selling e-cigarettes containing nicotine can now be fined up to $1,650 or imprisoned for six months – or both – after penalties were increased earlier this month.
Despite the risks, Mr. Fitchkin doesn’t think black market sellers will be deterred.
“The increase in fines is minimal. The profits far outweigh the costs. I don’t see corner stores making less than $1,600 a day selling disposable e-cigarettes, and it’s a lucrative area.
While Mr. Fichkin sees disposable e-cigarettes as an important tool to help smokers quit, he said the new rules put legal e-cigarette stores, which are more conducive to helping smokers quit, at a disadvantage.
The legal industry is currently in a difficult position because of disposables, he said. Many people start using disposables – most commonly at 50 mg of nicotine – and then turn to legal e-cigarettes to gain flexibility in the amount of nicotine they vape – -decreases as they quit smoking.
“But now we’re at a disadvantage because we can’t import nicotine, which makes the goal of helping customers quit difficult to achieve.”
While it is still possible to sell nicotine-free flavored liquids, there are now only two ways for prescription holders to obtain nicotine e-cigarette products in Australia; from a pharmacy or by importing from an overseas website.
Prescriptions can only be written by one of the 80 authorized prescribers or by a physician approved under the TGA’s Special Access Program B.
Authorized prescribers of nicotine e-cigarette products must be registered with the Therapeutic Goods Administration as a general practitioner. Prescriptions can be obtained from one of more than 30,000 GPs and then ordered from overseas sites under individual importation plans.
However, Mr. Fichkin said GPs receive the lowest level of education on the use of smoking cessation products, highlighting the importance of enabling specialists to provide nicotine through the legal industry.
“The increase in disposable vapes will make the availability of nicotine a much bigger topic in Australia,” He said. “The conversation should be about how the Australian government will monitor its use – because that will help make it legal and help reduce harm to smokers.”