Government to impose 12-month ban on most e-cigarette imports

Matt Woodley

19/06/2020 4:00:41 PM

The pause will allow the TGA to receive public consultation on the future regulation of nicotine products in Australia.

Person using e-cigarette.
The RACGP has said e-cigarettes are only a reasonable intervention in limited circumstances as the long-term health effects are unknown.

The RACGP has thrown its support behind the move, which will come into effect on 1 July and apply to all e-cigarettes containing vaporiser nicotine (nicotine liquids and salts) and nicotine-containing refills, unless on prescription from a doctor.
It effectively means people will no longer be able to legally import these products for personal use via an overseas supplier, an outcome welcomed by RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon.
‘The long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or “vaping” are unknown and public health experts have different views on whether they are effective as a smoking cessation tool,’ he said.
‘This is not a smoking cessation aid that should be embraced by all smokers in the community, it is a last resort prescription for people who have already tried evidence-based smoking cessation options and not succeeded.’
Under the incoming ban, an e-cigarette prescription will only be provided to assist with smoking cessation where other measures, such as nicotine replacement therapy, have failed.
‘I urge all people who smoke to see their GP and explore the pharmacotherapy treatments available. This includes nicotine replacement therapy in the form of a patch, spray, gum or lozenge,’ Dr Nespolon said.
‘There are also effective drugs available such as varenicline, which blocks the pleasure and reward response to smoking, as well as bupropion hydrochloride which reduces the urge to smoke and helps with nicotine withdrawal.’
According to the Department of Health, the ban will provide time for public submissions into future regulation imposed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which will come in the form of an amendment to the Poisons Standard.
Such an amendment would mean the use of vaporiser nicotine products would require a valid prescription from a health professional, including GPs. As part of this consultation the proposal will also be considered by a Ministerial advisory committee, with a final decision expected to be announced in early 2021.
The use of e-cigarettes in Australia has generated much debate, with advocates claiming it is an effective quitting aid, while others have concerns over its unknown long-term health effects and rising popularity among teenagers and young adults.
In responding to the Government’s announcement, Dr Nespolon warned that various claims and campaigns concerning the use of e-cigarettes need to be fact-checked carefully.
‘When we released our smoking cessation guidelines earlier this year it was unfortunate that our position on vaping was misrepresented by some pro-vaping organisations who claimed we were coming out “in support” of vaping,’ he said.
‘That is not the case – as I said at the time repeatedly, the RACGP does not endorse vaping. Our guideline’s conditional recommendation notes that it’s only a reasonable intervention in limited circumstances and that the long-term health effects are unknown. So we need to approach it with caution.’
Dr Nespolon also warned against complacency regarding tobacco use in Australia.
‘Australia is a world leader in combating smoking, we have some of the lowest smoking rates across the globe,’ he said.
‘However, the battle is far from won and there has been a slowing in the rate of decline in recent years – our aim should be to decrease smoking rates year on year.’
The RACGP’s Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals can be found here.
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