New vaping laws now require a doctor’s prescription to purchase any nicotine-containing vaping products. But does this mean that it will help you quit smoking or vaping? Here’s all you need to know about Australia’s new vaping rules, and the new prescription vape that could help you quit smoking for good.
According to the latest national drugs survey, more than half a million Australians currently use e-cigarettes or ‘vapes’, and 2.4 million people have tried it at some point in their lives. Whilst many smokers have made the switch to vaping in a bid to quit smoking, a rising number of young adolescents are taking to vaping as a smoking alternative — between 2015 and 2019, e-cigarette use by young people increased by 96 per cent in Australia — putting them at risk of a number of serious health issues and addiction to nicotine.
Whilst e-cigarettes are widely regarded as less harmful than cigarettes, they’re not entirely harm-free. They can expose users and bystanders to toxic chemicals. The long-term effects of vaping are not yet known, but there is an emerging link between e-cigarette use and severe lung disease.
But despite the current laws, which actually make it illegal to purchase vapes that contain liquid nicotine, many young people have been importing nicotine vapes instead.
Whist it’s illegal to sell liquid nicotine in Australia, e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal. The vape shops that you might have seen should only be selling nicotine-free vapes.
So in a bid to regulate and control the purchase of nicotine vapes, Australia has tightened its vaping laws to crack down on the illegal use and sale of nicotine vaping products.
From 1 October 2021 it’s illegal to buy items such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine from overseas and locally without a prescription from a registered GP.
Until now, people had been permitted to import up to three months' worth into Australia from overseas.
What’s the difference between e-cigarettes and cigarettes?
E-cigarettes (or 'e-cigs' or ‘vapes’) are battery-operated devices that heat a cartridge of liquid nicotine (also known as e-liquid) and flavour to produce a vapour that users inhale. They deliver nicotine (the addictive agent in cigarettes) without burning tobacco and producing harmful smoke.
They come in a range of shapes and sizes and often look like conventional cigarettes, pens or even sleek tech gadgets. The user will inhale and exhale the vapour from the heated e-liquid, which contains a range of chemicals that may or may not contain nicotine. Whilst the vapour doesn’t usually emit a strong odour, they often have a sweet smell, depending on the flavour.
Are e-cigarettes less harmful than cigarettes?
Although e-cigarettes are widely used by smokers who are trying to quit, they come with their own set of risk factors.
While it’s true that e-cigarette aerosol doesn’t include all the contaminants in tobacco smoke, it still isn’t safe. E-cigarettes contain toxic chemicals such as propylene glycol, glycerol or ethylene glycol that can cause adverse health effects, and may increase the risk of developing cardiovascular, cancer and respiratory diseases.
They also contain high levels of nicotine (in some cases, even more than traditional cigarettes) which is highly addictive and can harm the developing brains of teens, kids and fetuses in women who vape while pregnant.
If you’re trying to quit smoking, there are a range of therapies and treatments available that your GP will advise you to try before you start using an e-cigarette as a means to wean you off smoking. Ideally, nicotine vapes are only used as a last resort if you’ve tried alternative approaches that were previously unsuccessful.
So how will the new restrictions help me quit smoking?
While some vapers say it's been a successful way to slowly wean off nicotine altogether, medical officials are worried that the majority of people are just swapping cigarettes for vaping, based on the assumption that vaping is healthier than traditional cigarettes, which actually isn’t true.
So, in a bid to educate smokers responsibly and help them to quit for good, the government has enforced a new prescription-only purchase rule for all nicotine vaping products, such as nicotine e-cigarettes, nicotine pods and liquid nicotine. This includes purchases from Australian pharmacies and from overseas.
The new restrictions mean there will be more control over who has access to e-cigarettes, because from 1 October 2021 you will need to have a prescription from a registered GP (your GP will need approval under the TGA's Special Access Scheme B) to purchase any nicotine vaping product. Nicotine vaping products can only be legally used by the person named on the prescription. This means that low quality, harmful products will be restricted form entering the country, allowing only safe and appropriate products to be prescribed and dispensed through community pharmacies.
The prescription-only model ensures that vapers are presented with the correct health risks, and are only prescribed to those with the intention to stop smoking cigarettes altogether. Your GP will provide you with the appropriate medical advice before they prescribe a nicotine vaping product as a last resort to help you quit smoking.
You’ll be able to purchase your prescription from either an Australian pharmacist or from a reputable overseas website. Overseas orders are restricted to a maximum three month supply, and only with an authorised prescription. If you purchase from an overseas website, they’ll be required to include a copy of your prescription with your package.
It’s important to note that your GP is under no obligation to write you a prescription if they don’t think it’s an appropriate treatment plan. They will first discuss the various options available to you that could help you quit smoking, including prescription medicines, nicotine replacement therapies and support services, before they consider writing you a script for a nicotine vaping product (NVP).
Nicotine replacement therapies (including sprays, patches, lozenges, chews and gums) that do not require a prescription will still be available to purchase from pharmacies and some retail outlets.
You can also phone the Quitline on 13 7848 or visit the Quit Now website for free advice.
Will the new prescription vapes help me stop smoking?
Because the new restrictions essentially ban the purchase of any low quality, harmful nicotine products, a new wave of much safer e-cigarettes will be available to purchase to help you in your quest to become smoke-free. Your GP will prescribe the appropriate nicotine vaping product that fits in line with TGA approval.
If you’re purchasing overseas, your product will be subject to the minimum ingredient, child-resistant packaging and labelling requirements outlined by the TGA’s Standard for Nicotine Vaping Products. If it fails meet these requirements, the TGA can take action against the supplier.
So what’s the best vape to purchase?
From 1 October, a number of Australian pharmacies will be stocking the Nicovape® Q — the world’s first medically prescribed and pharmacy-ready e-cigarettes to help Australia’s 2.9 million smokers give up smoking — and will be available for prescription-only purchase.
Unlike other non-regulated e-cigarettes that could contain potentially unknown, harmful chemicals, Nicovape® Q is a medical-grade nicotine vaping product that’s been specifically developed as a tool for doctors to help patients who have been unsuccessful in quitting smoking before. They’ve been manufactured in line with Australian medical framework standards to be consistent, reliable, effective, and safe, and have also been proven to minimise exposure to harmful chemicals when compared to cigarettes.
Essentially, they’ve been designed to help you stop smoking by giving you a healthier dose of nicotine compared to cigarettes and other non-regulated vaping products. They come in three flavours: Classic, Coolmint and Cherry; and three strengths: 59mg/mL which is available for purchase now, and 35mg/mL and 20mg/mL, which are expected to be in stock by the end of November 2021.
They’ll be available on prescription from registered doctors following a consultation, and dispensed under the supervision of your GP and pharmacist. Along with this prescription, they’ll continue to provide you with advice and support to help you stop smoking for good.
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