Australia restricts vape sales

By introducing some of the world's toughest anti-vaping laws, which restrict the sale of vapes with nicotine, buying e-cigarettes in Australia is becoming much more difficult.

From 1 July onwards, users will have to present a pharmacist's prescription to buy a vape, and the choice will be limited to three flavors: mint, menthol and tobacco.

Dozens of countries have banned single-use vapes, but the government says Australia has introduced "world-leading" measures by banning the sale of vapes in shops, petrol stations and other small outlets, CNN reported.

Australian authorities say the move means an end to the colorful brands and fun flavors, which authorities say have been a ploy to get children addicted to nicotine.

"It's not often that parliament gets the opportunity to do something really significant and lasting for the health of young Australians," Health Minister Mark Butler said after the country's parliament passed the laws.

However, under the political deal that was struck to secure the law's approval, the restrictions will be eased in October, when only minors under 18 will need a prescription.

Adults will be able to buy vape at pharmacies without a prescription, but the devices could prove difficult to find after some leading pharmacy chains announced they would refuse to offer them.

"Pharmacists are health professionals and community pharmacies don't want to supply this potentially harmful and highly addictive product without a prescription," Anthony Tassone, national vice-president of the Australian Pharmacists Guild, said in a statement.

Australia's Green Party has pushed for amendments to allow adults to buy vapes without a prescription as it does not support banning or criminalizing vaping.

"Drug prohibition has failed. The Greens are pleased to have secured amendments to this legislation that will ensure no person is criminalized for personal possession of an e-cigarette," Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John said.

Possession of a vape for personal use is not a criminal offence, but importing and selling commercial quantities of vape will result in hefty fines.

Some fear the new laws will create a black market for vapes similar to that which exists for cigarettes in Australia, which levies some of the highest tobacco taxes in the world.

A pack of 20 cigarettes costs around A$35 (US$23) - significantly more than in the US and UK.

Costs are expected to rise when the tobacco tax increases by a further 5% in September.

Other countries are tackling the growing number of young people taking up smoking, but they are taking different approaches to the problem. In June, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved the first tobacco-free flavor e-cigarette products, drawing sharp criticism from pediatricians and anti-smoking groups.

The FDA has also teamed up with the Department of Justice to create a task force to identify and combat illegal sales and distribution of e-cigarettes in the United States. | BGNES