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Australia plans to restrict vape sales to pharmacies from next week


MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australia plans to outlaw the sale of vapes outside pharmacies from next week under some of the world’s toughest restrictions on electronic cigarettes, the health minister said on Monday.

The government had reached a compromise with the minor Greens party to get the legislated restrictions through the Senate this week, Health Minister Mark Butler and the party said.

“Our world-leading laws will return vapes and e-cigarettes to what they were originally sold to the Australian community and to governments around the world as therapeutic products to help hardened smokers kick the habit,” Butler said in a statement.

From Monday next week, it will be unlawful to supply, manufacture, import or sell a vape outside a pharmacy in Australia, he said. The ban applies to all vapes regardless of whether they contain nicotine.

There are currently no restrictions on what retail outlets can sell vapes. Many products do not disclose that they contain nicotine.

The Greens had insisted on amendments to a bill that the government had already passed through the House of Representatives. The government holds a majority in the House but not in the Senate.

Adults would not require prescriptions to buy vapes under the amended bill. The original government legislation made vapes only available through a doctor’s prescription to help end nicotine addiction.

“The Greens do not support prohibition, that is why we have successfully secured changes to this legislation to ensure that vapes remain out of the hands of kids, but adults can access them via a pharmacy,” Greens health spokesperson Jordon Steele-John said in a statement.

The legislation will be passed by the Parliament by Thursday, Butler's office said.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia, which represents the nation’s pharmacy owners, opposed their businesses becoming outlets for harmful vapes with little evidence that the product helped smokers quit.

“The Senate’s expectation that community pharmacies become vape retailers and vape garbage collectors is insulting,” the guild said in a statement.

Michael Bonning, a spokesman for the Australian Medical Association, the nation’s peak doctors’ group, said the new law would create a “seismic shift in how accessible vapes are.”

“These are world-leading reforms that doctors and all health professionals have pushed for,” Bonning told Australian Broadcasting Corp.

“Australia will continue to be looked at as a leader in tobacco and nicotine control,” Bonning added.

Australia in 2012 became the first country to legislate for plain packing of tobacco products which vastly curtailed the industry’s marketing potential. Tobacco advertising is banned in Australia.

A University of Melbourne survey of 600 vape users aged between 14 and 25 released on Monday found 61% wanted to quit their habit.

The proportion of Australians aged 14 and over who smoked daily more than halved from 24% in 1991 to 8.3% in the 2022–2023 fiscal year, the government said.