SA government announces vaping blitz in major crackdown

An eight-week enforcement blitz targeting the illegal sale of nicotine vapes begins today in South Australia.

An eight-week enforcement blitz targeting the illegal sale of nicotine vapes begins today in South Australia, coinciding with tough new licence conditions imposed by the State Government to crack down on the vaping scourge.

From today, SA Health compliance officers will be visiting businesses that sell vapes including convenience stores, service stations and barber shops to check that licence holders are meeting the new conditions.

The first wave of inspections will focus on ensuring that businesses understand the new conditions and will target any products already known to contain nicotine.

A wave of follow-up inspections will target businesses to check they have the required evidence that their products do not contain nicotine.

The stringent new licence conditions make clear that selling nicotine e-cigarettes is already illegal and now require retailers to show proof that vaping products being sold are nicotine-free. Retailers also need to provide information about their e-cigarette suppliers, importers or manufacturers, that will enable products to be traced.

Previous enforcement blitzes over the past year have resulted in the seizure of about 15,000 illegal nicotine vapes, including from unlicensed premises, as well as 17 fines issued and three licences cancelled.

SA Health will be inspecting various sectors who are currently licensed, including many businesses who have been subject to previous compliance action or complaints.

Businesses found to be in breach of the new licence conditions may be subject to a warning, expiation notices, seizures of their products or prosecution, with the appropriate action based on individual circumstances.

Information packs outlining the new conditions have been sent to approximately 1,800 current and former licence holders since the new conditions were announced on 8 June 2023.

Other measures to support licence holders to comply with the new conditions include information on the TGA website that lists products in other states found to contain nicotine.

The new licence conditions are part of a crackdown on the sale of nicotine-containing vapes, following evidence that vaping products are being sold in a variety of businesses across South Australia.

The new conditions are an interim measure, while the Federal Government works through its plans to stop the importation of non-prescription e-cigarettes and the banning of vapes in retail settings and single-use disposable vapes, announced recently.

SA Health has become increasingly aware of non-compliance with laws introduced in October 2021 that classify nicotine vaping products as prescription-only medicines and prevent the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes without a prescription.

Many vaping products do not list nicotine as an ingredient on the packaging, however, laboratory testing has confirmed nicotine is present in the majority of disposable vapes sold in Australia.

To ensure vaping products are nicotine-free, licence holders under the new licence conditions must:

  • Immediately cease selling, supplying, possessing or storing nicotine vaping products.
  • Obtain and maintain proof from suppliers that their non-nicotine vaping products are in fact nicotine-free.
  • Arrange laboratory testing if their supplier cannot or will not provide written documentation confirming the vapes do not contain nicotine.
  • Maintain relevant documentation of the supplier, importer or manufacturer that enables their products to be traced.
  • Train staff and provide adequate supervision on requirements of the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act (TEP Act), Controlled Substances Act 1984 and other relevant legislation.
  • Display their TEP Act licence, including the conditions in a visible place on the premises.

Any licensed retailer found breaching the conditions risks penalties of up to $10,000.

Any person or retailer found selling or supplying e-cigarette products or tobacco without a licence faces penalties of up to $20,000.

Minister for Health and Wellbeing Chris Picton says he is deeply concerned about the number of young people becoming addicted to vapes.

“Data shows the prevalence of young people using vapes has jumped from one per cent to nearly 8 per cent in the past five years.”

“This is why we are taking strong action to try to halt this serious health problem.”

“These strict new conditions are designed to keep illegal nicotine vapes out of retail outlets and out of the hands of South Australians, especially children.

“These changes will help SA Health to regulate nicotine vaping products until the Commonwealth Government’s national ban on nicotine vapes comes into effect.”

Acting Chief Public Health Officer Dr Chris Lease said “We are aware that nicotine vaping products are being sold in a variety of businesses across South Australia such as convenience stores, service stations and barber shops.”

“This compliance blitz will target a range of business types, and retailers found to be in breach will face significant penalties.”

“We gave licence holders a month’s notice to familiarise themselves with the changes so they can comply with them from today and we urge them to make sure they are doing the right thing.”

“It is important for retailers to know that it is illegal to sell any nicotine vaping products in South Australia unless you are the holder of a licence under the Controlled Substances Act (such as a pharmacy) and the purchaser is in possession of a valid prescription.”

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