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Pharmacy lobby blasts plan for chemists to sell vapes

Pharmacy Guild's vape fury

Source: Network Ten

Pharmacists have erupted at a plan to water down Australia’s world-first vaping ban by allowing vape products to be sold in pharmacies without a prescription.

The federal government cut a deal with the Greens to dump prescriptions for adults in order to clear the way for the reforms to pass the Senate.

People under 18 will be banned from buying them unless they have a prescription.

But the Pharmacy Guild of Australia wants prescriptions to remain, arguing pharmacists are healthcare professionals who dispense medication that has a proven therapeutic benefit.

“Pharmacies across Australia, thanks to this secret deal between the Labor government and the Greens, are being asked to supply these nicotine-containing vapes that are not backed by strong clinical evidence as a smoking cessation tool, to be given without a prescription through community pharmacies,” spokesman Anthony Tassone told Network Ten.

The electronic cigarettes will be in plain packaging and regulated. A doctor’s prescription will be the only way someone under the age of 18 can legally purchase a vape as part of the government crackdown.

Pharmacists will need to have a conversation with the user, provide information on health harms and offer alternative ways to stop smoking.

People will need to confirm their identity but pharmacies will not record patients’ data and there will be limitations on the amount of nicotine in each vape.

The government’s deal with the Greens stipulates that people who illegally use vapes will not face criminal penalties and there will be an eight-month amnesty period for personal possession.

Once the reforms are passed, it will be illegal as of July 1 for retailers to sell commercial quantities of vapes if they are not pharmacies and extra funding will be provided to help young people quit smoking.

Their supply, manufacture and import have also been outlawed.

Health Minister Mark Butler said the government wanted to return vapes to their original purpose “to help hardened smokers kick the habit”.

But Greens Leader Adam Bandt said his party watered down the rules because “prohibition doesn’t work”.

“History is replete with examples of politicians telling adults not to use certain drugs only to find that doesn’t actually fix the problem,” he told ABC’s RN on Tuesday.

“We think it really strikes the right balance and it’ll be a pretty good start.”

The Greens wanted to address the “real public health concern” among children, as flavoured vapes were being marketed to them, Bandt said.

“We wanted to make sure that it was treated as a health issue and kept out of the criminal justice system, and so the changes that we’ve secured mean now … adult vape users and children as well won’t be criminalised for their vape use,” he said.

Butler said the laws protected young people and the community from recreational vaping “while ensuring that those who really need access to a therapeutic vape for help to quit smoking can get one”.

The Nationals wanted to treat vapes like cigarettes through tax and regulation.

“That’s how we actually attack this and make sure the excise doesn’t go to organised crime but goes back into regional health,” leader David Littleproud told Sky News.

The Australian Medical Association has criticised the Nationals’ push, saying the prescription model has not yet been given a chance.

“All of the laws that have been in the states and territories about not selling vaping products to people under the age of 18 have utterly failed because kids can get them easily, or older people just give them to kids,” president Steve Robson told ABC radio.

“Policies that promote it are just harmful and they’re a false economy and they don’t appreciate that we’ve got a window to do something great and help young Australians.”

-with AAP

Topics: Vaping
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