The West Australian government is threatening to destroy the retail vape industry in Western Australia with massive fines for selling vaping products and nicotine-free liquids.
But they are ensuring that only the black market and tobacco companies will ultimately benefit.
Vape stores were informed of the crackdown by letter last month and were told they could face up to $80,000 in penalties.
The current legislation in WA, the Tobacco Product Control Act 2006, bans the sale of devices that look like cigarettes.
However, although there has been no recent change in the legislation, WA Health has confirmed that penalties will now apply to all vaping-related goods, including individual components of vaping devices, batteries, and nicotine-free liquids. If enforced, this would shut down vape stores across the state, leaving only the black market in operation.
The crackdown comes in response to a rise in youth vaping. A new initiative was recently announced to educate young people on nicotine addiction and chemicals in vaping products.
Young people should be given accurate information to help them make informed choices. However,
this campaign, based on the NSW Health ‘Do you know what you’re vaping?’ campaign, is alarmist, exaggerates risks and is riddled with misinformation.
There is no doubt that youth vaping is on the rise. However, this rise is being driven almost exclusively by black-market sales. Vape stores do not sell these illegal products, or any products containing nicotine.
These businesses have frequent inspections from the Health Department and have been assured for many years that their businesses are legal.
The knee-jerk reaction by the Health Department to target legal vape shops will have no effect on youth vaping.
Instead, it will harm current adult smokers and ex-smokers who have successfully quit smoking by vaping.
Vaping is the most popular quitting aid used by Australian smokers and is far less harmful than smoking.
Perversely, deadly cigarettes will continue to be readily available at convenience stores, tobacconists, petrol stations and corner shops across the state.
The new proposal leaves the black market free to expand and continue selling unregulated, high-nicotine disposable vapes to young people.
The state government should address illicit sales to youth by policing and enforcing the laws to prevent the sale of illicit, dodgy vaping products.
It should also establish policies to allow approved, high quality vaping products as consumer goods for adult smokers to help them quit, following the example of New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
This would allow basic consumer protection, which is absent from the black market.
Protections should include mandated ingredients lists, should ensure chemical additives are safe, and enforce strict minimum age-of-sale laws like those which apply to combustible cigarettes and alcohol.
Cracking down on small businesses who help tens of thousands of adult West Australians remain smoke-free will be a public health disaster.
This ill-advised government plan will have the opposite effect to what is intended. The black market will thrive, instances of use and misuse by teens will become more common, and tens of thousands of West Australian adult ex-smokers will be forced back to cigarettes. The only beneficiaries of this misguided plan will be the tobacco companies.
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