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Australian vape ban encourages black market sales, according to expert

10 May, 2023 

Interview by Spike Keith, adapted by David Liwei Shi 

Chair of Smoking NZ and medical oncologist George Laking says the Australian government has “pushed too hard” on banning non-prescription Nicotine vapes. Photo: Canva.

Listen to the full interview

The Australian government has announced it will ban imports of non-prescription nicotine vapes into the country.

Although Nicotine vapes already require a medical prescription, black market sales are increasing due to poor government regulations. 

Chair of Smoking NZ and medical oncologist George Laking told 95bFM’s The Wire that the Australian government has “pushed too hard” regarding the ban. 

“The more restrictions are brought in, the more people will try to circumvent those restrictions,” said Laking.

“If I were going to focus on something, it would be on finding a way to prevent existing products from getting into the hands of young people who have not previously vaped or smoked.” 

In 2021, Australia passed similar legislation to limit nicotine vapes and smoking, which saw young people seek out black market alternatives.

Laking said the higher cost and limited availability of prescription vapes fueled the black market.

He encouraged the government to approach the ban like a “fine balancing act.”   

“What we have on one hand is the promise that vaping helps people stop smoking. But on the other hand, we have an increasing popularity among young people to vape.”

“It is a question of where you set the balance with those two things.” 

In Aotearoa, past attempts have been made with a specialised retail system to regulate legal vape businesses. 

Laking observed that only a small percentage of young people use vapes everyday, despite its increasing popularity. 

While vaping increased, smoking rates amongst youths have decreased due to factors like the lifetime ban on buying tobacco for anybody born on or after 1 January 2009.

“All things considered, a person is still in a better position vaping than they are smoking.”