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Vape Sales Explosion: Pharmacies to Offer Over-the-Counter Vapes Amidst Illegal Trade Surge!

Illegal vapes in Wyndham

New Legislation Sparks Controversy as Labor Government Faces Criticism Over Rising Teen Addiction and Black Market Activity in Melbourne.

On 1 July 2024, community pharmacies became the sole legal retailers of nicotine-containing vapes.

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Starting from 1 October, the requirement for a prescription will be eliminated, allowing anyone over 18 to purchase vaping products over-the-counter in community pharmacies. This change is expected to increase access to these products, raising concerns about potential harm to a new generation of young people.

The changes, which were approved in the Senate last week following a deal with the Greens, reclassified vapes from Prescription-only (Schedule 4) to Pharmacist-only (Schedule 3).

The original Bill aimed to curb the importation, distribution, and sale of nicotine-containing vapes, limiting them to smoking cessation plans supervised by GPs.

The Bill was supported by 63 patient, healthcare, and school groups, including the Australian Medical Association, the Cancer Council, Lung Foundation Australia, the Public Health Association of Australia, and the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners.

Amendments proposed by the Greens were disclosed in a media release last Monday.

The Pharmacy Guild of Australia Vice President, Mr. Anthony Tassone, said, “We were gobsmacked, and questioned why we were not involved in the conversation [about] this very important issue.

“The best policy is brought together when we have the right people in a room, including health professionals and patients affected by the decision, sitting down together to have the conversation.”

Strong opposition came from the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia, TerryWhite Chemmart, Priceline, National Pharmacies, Blooms, and Pharmacy 777 pharmacy groups, as well as thousands of independent pharmacies, many of which have stated they will not stock vaping products.

Vaping products have not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), and no nicotine-containing vape is listed on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods.

“Pharmacists are healthcare professionals, and community pharmacies do not want to supply this potentially harmful, highly addictive product without a prescription,” Mr. Tassone continued.

“Pharmacists can only supply a Schedule 3 medicine if there is an established therapeutic need. When we don’t know the long-term effects of vapes on patient safety, how can a pharmacist make an informed decision?”

Vaping is associated with long-term harms, including cancer, lung scarring, and nicotine addiction. There is limited evidence supporting the use of vaping products for smoking cessation and nicotine dependence.

Mr. Tassone said, “We welcome any initiatives that are going to reduce the likelihood of having vapes in the hands of kids and teenagers, but having non-prescription availability through community pharmacies is not the solution.

“Vape sales will not require any recording or monitoring, so how do we ensure safety and appropriateness?”

This lack of oversight means individuals could potentially stockpile vapes from multiple pharmacies and sell them to children and teenagers. Approximately 70% of teenage vapers already obtain their vapes from other individuals rather than direct purchase.

Adding to the complexity, vapes are still being sold illegally through numerous outlets around Wyndham and the greater Melbourne area, raising questions about the Labor Government’s current regulations for addressing this issue. The situation has also intensified tobacco wars, pointing again to the government’s mishandling of the situation.

Significant questions remain about the impact of the amendments on pharmacy insurance premiums, business risks, and regulatory compliance. It is also unclear how this change will address concerns about the availability of black-market vapes and organized crime.

“There are still so many questions that need to be asked, but neither the Guild nor other healthcare experts have been allowed to be part of the conversation. We need a broader conversation with the right people,” Mr. Tassone concluded.

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