NSW cracks down on illicit vapes, urges nationwide ban

NSW will spend $6.8m to stamp out illicit vape sales, with the practice "a gateway to smoking".

NSW will spend $6.8m to stamp out illicit vape sales, with the practice "a gateway to smoking". Photo: AAP

There should be a national ban on retailers selling vapes to curb easy access to illicit products containing nicotine, NSW Premier Chris Minns says.

The state government on Monday committed $6.8 million over three years for enforcement of vaping restrictions and services to help young people quit using the products.

Mr Minns said more inspectors checking for outlaw vape-sellers would help but a national approach was needed.

Under existing Australian laws, vaping products containing nicotine can only be bought and sold with a prescription but non-nicotine products are available over the counter.

Many of those products have also been found to contain nicotine and other harmful chemicals.

“We want to work on a national level to ban this across the country,” Mr Minns told reporters.

“If it was banned across the country, in other words you couldn’t sell e-cigarettes in a retail setting, it would be a lot easier for us to have a compliance regime across the state.

“We’ve got to stop it at the border and the national rules have to change.”

NSW health authorities seized 23,247 vapes worth more than $695,000 in a week-long campaign against illegal products earlier this month.

Separate research from the University of Wollongong, funded and commissioned by NSW Health, found more than 98 per cent of vapes seized from retailers and students at Sydney schools within a survey period contained high nicotine concentrations.

Most of the products did not list the addictive drug as an active ingredient, while a small share of the vapes contained other harmful substances like ethylene glycol, a chemical compound found in anti-freeze.

Evidence showed vaping was a gateway to lifting smoking rates in young people, with e-cigarette users three times more likely to progress to traditional cigarettes, according to health officials.

Nicotine could also cause changes to development in young people, including impaired learning abilities and memory.

Health Minister Ryan Park said the clampdown was part of a focus on vapes that could also lead to increased penalties.

At present, retailers can be fined $2000 for illegal selling of vapes.

The federal government in May announced $234 million for tougher regulation, including stricter import and packaging controls.

The measures, which are yet to be introduced, include a ban on the importation of non-prescription vapes for retail settings and of single-use products.

Federal Health Minister Mark Butler says the ban will need the help of state and territory governments to shut down the sale of vapes outside of pharmacies.

Mr Park said NSW was not going to wait for a national import ban to look at strengthening laws around vape seizures and inspections to crack down on rogue retailers, only a handful of which have been successfully prosecuted.

The state’s education department is also considering installing 40,000 vape-detection devices in public schools by July.


Topics: NSW, Vaping
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