The reality of vaping in Australia today: it’s a mainstream pursuit, driven almost entirely by a black market of illegal vapes.
Data shows that hundreds of thousands of adults have taken up vaping in the past year. More than 1.1 million adults are now vapers.
And at the same time, increasing surveys are revealing that while vaping is a mainstream activity, the product supply is almost entirely illegal. Remember, under regulations introduced in October 2021 by the then Morrison Government, it is illegal to buy nicotine vaping products in Australia without a prescription from a GP.
But that is clearly not happening.
Recent survey data from the Cancer Council Victoria found that only 8.6% of nicotine vaping consumers in Australia’s second-most-populous state reported having a prescription.
This squares with another national survey conducted this year by Convenience Measures Australia, which found only 12% of nicotine vaping consumers reported having a prescription.
In contrast to Australia, nicotine vaping devices are legal consumer products in most advanced countries. It is a popular adult consumer product increasingly being used by people around the world, and very commonly as a substitute for cigarettes which have become highly expensive because of decades of increasing excise taxes.
Australia’s de facto prohibition approach, imposed in the face of rising consumer demand, has driven people to seek other ways to access the products. It’s that simple.
The costs of this are enormous. Governments miss out on tax revenue that can provide basic services and repair budget balances. Criminal importers supply under-the-counter products to consumers at a scale that cannot be policed effectively. Doctors are hesitant to prescribe nicotine vaping products but still are forced to see patients who want the products. This wastes health service resources and determined consumers who are denied access through the complex legal channels will revert to the black market anyway.
Without changing the black market to a regulated market – giving consumers the option to purchase products legally – the current status is set to continue.