$1 million vape seizure “not even a drop in the ocean”

Sixty retailers have been raided across Sydney in a blitz that resulted in $1.1 million worth of illegal vapes and tobacco products being seized.

The raids took place between 29 January and 2 February, with NSW Health inspectors and NSW Police officers, along with officers from the Theraupetic Goods Administration (TGA), seizing 30,000 nicotine e-cigarettes, 118,000 cigarettes, 45kg of flavoured and loose-leaf tobacco, and 284 containers of nicotine pouches.

Despite the large amount of illicit product seized, Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), says that the seizure represents less than half of NSW’s daily supply.

“AACS wholeheartedly supports the crackdown on illegal vapes, but the result of these recent raids shows just how hard it is to make even a slight dent in the black market.

“What authorities have seized in New South Wales is less than half a day’s supply; unfortunately, it’s not even a drop in the ocean.”

The latest Roy Morgan data shows that over 90,000 Australian adults took up vaping between September and December last year, with 34 per cent of those people living in NSW.

“The only way to starve black-market demand is to regulate the sale of nicotine vapes the same way we do for tobacco and alcohol, where only licensed, responsible retailers are allowed to sell products made following strictly legislated rules for nicotine levels, ingredients, flavours, and packaging,” explained Foukkare.

Foukkare believes the Albanese Government’s decision to get Australian vape users to go to a GP, get a prescription, and have it filled at a cost of $150 is incredibly flawed and plays into the hands of the black market.

“Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Health Minister Mark Butler are simultaneously creating another burden during the cost-of-living crisis by forcing adults who vape to see a doctor and pay $150 – around five times the amount for a black market vape – to access a legal one from the chemist.”

The federal government’s own modelling shows that around 450,000 Australians are expected to go to their GP twice this year to get a vape prescription, meaning nearly a million extra appointments will be needed.

“The majority of Aussies are struggling to put food on the table, so forcing them to pay the Medicare gap to see a doctor so that they can then go to a pharmacy and pay $150 for one will just send more and more people to the black market where they can easily access cheap, yet dangerous, nicotine vapes that have been made with insidious chemicals in China.”

Since July 2020, the total estimated street value of seized illegal vaping and tobacco products across NSW totals more than $31.6 million.

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