Vapes to be sold in pharmacies as Labor shelves script requirements after deal with Greens

Jack QuailNewsWire
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Camera IconNot Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Vapes will be made available at pharmacies without a prescription after the Albanese government struck a deal with the Greens that will soften a proposed retail ban on e-cigarettes.

Health Minister Mark Butler on Monday secured support from the minor party for Labor’s contentious plan that originally would have limited vape access to prescription-only pharmacy sales.

While the ban will be in place from July 1 as originally intended, from October individuals will be able to purchase vapes from behind-the-counter following a conversation with a pharmacist about the health harms associated with vaping.

Greens leader Adam Bandt backed in the changes under the deal with his party, declaring “prohibition doesn’t work” in an interview on ABC radio on Tuesday.

“I mean, history is replete with examples of politicians telling adults not to use certain drugs only to find that that doesn’t actually fix the problem,” he said.

Mr Bandt said the party’s other key motivation was to keep the issue “out of the criminal justice system”.

“There is a real public health problem and especially amongst children, the kind of flavoured types that children have been using ... for us is something that we really wanted to tackle but we wanted to make sure that it was treated as a health issue and kept out of the criminal justice system,” he said.

“And so the changes that we’ve secured mean now you, the adult vape user, and children as well won’t be criminalised for their vape usage and can walk down the street with a Rock Princess or a Lush Ice and know that it’s not a crime.”

But the Pharmacy Guild has reacted angrily to the proposal, branding the move as “insulting” and urged the government to change course on the vaping crackdown.

“Everyone wants to keep illegal vapes out of the hands of kids and teenagers, but the Senate wants pharmacists to stock vapes next to children’s Panadol, cold and flu medicine, and emergency contraception,” they said.

Camera IconHealth Minister Mark Butler made a deal with the Greens to pass its vapes Bill, but with a major concession. NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Individuals will be required to provide a form of ID to purchase vapes, while restrictions will also limit nicotine concentration.

Children under the age of 18 will be still able to purchase vapes, but will require a doctor’s script to do so.

Possession of personal quantities of vaping products will not be subject to criminal charges, with penalties instead targeting possession and distribution of commercial amounts.

Announcing the overhaul, Mr Butler, who had previously said behind-the-counter vape sales would be considered if the prescription-only plan was unsuccessful, said the deal had followed constructive engagement with the crossbench.

“Our world-leading laws will return vapes and e-cigarettes to what they were originally sold to the Australian community and to governments around the world as – therapeutic products to help hardened smokers kick the habit,” Mr Butler said.

“These laws protect young Australians and the broader community from the harms of recreational vaping, while ensuring that those who really need access to a therapeutic vape for help to quit smoking, can get one from their local pharmacy.”

Greens health spokesperson Jordan Steele-John said regulation of the vape market must ensure former smokers were not incentivised to return to cigarettes.

“That’s why the Greens have focused on making sure adults can get access to therapeutic vapes when they need them,” he said.

“We’ve moved the government from a cost-prohibitive prescription model to a model where adults can pick up a vaping product from their local pharmacy without a prescription.”

Camera IconGreens senator Jordon Steele-John said the regulatory overhaul must ensure smokers were not incentivised to return to cigarettes. NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman Credit: News Corp Australia

Senator Steele-John has previously raised concerns that vape users could face excessive cost and considerable difficulty in obtaining a script when they were trying to quit smoking.

Analysis conducted by the Department of Health in January showed a prescription-only model for vape sales could require up to a million new GP visits a year for people accessing scripts.

With the Nationals opposed to Labor’s push and instead calling for vapes to be regulated akin to cigarettes, Mr Butler called on the Liberal Party, whose position on vaping regulation is yet to be finalised, to support the pharmacy-only sales plan.

“Peter Dutton and all Liberal senators now have a choice: will they side with the Nationals and Big Tobacco against the concerns of parents and teachers, or will they join with a majority of the parliament in protecting the health of young Australians for generations to come?” he said.

Originally published as Vapes to be sold in pharmacies as Labor shelves script requirements after deal with Greens

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