E-cigarette licensing system is broken, says AACS

Following NSW Health’s announcement that over $1 million in illegal vape products had been seized this year, the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) said the NSW Government must reform its broken e-cigarette licensing system.

AACS have been working directly with NSW Health, along with other State Health Departments in other jurisdictions, in collaboratively combating the illegal sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and liquid.

Theo Foukkare, CEO of AACS, said the 82 illegal retailers they reported to the government are only the tip of the iceberg.

“We very conservatively estimate there are approximately 200,000 regular illicit e-cigarette consumers in NSW with an average purchase of one $20 device per week amounting to an annual market size of $208 million.”

Foukkare said that by this estimate, the $1 million of illicit e-cigarettes seized this year means they have reduced supply by less than one per cent.

“This is a catastrophic failing from a government who promises to address this issue yet can barely move the needle.”

Foukkare said that to fix the problem, the NSW Government must increase the number of health inspectors doing compliance checks and fining stores doing the wrong thing, resource the NSW police so they can investigate how these illegal products are entering and being distributed around NSW and arrest the criminals involved.

“The NSW Government must call on the Federal Government to end the prescription model that has created this rampant black market of unregulated products and strictly regulate the market for adult consumers with product standards and age identification requirements.”

Foukkare stated that the illicit e-cigarette black market is slamming lawful and family-owned retailers.

“Law-abiding retailers who don’t stock these illegal products are seeing foot traffic drop as consumers purchase illicit e-cigarettes from criminal enterprises – this results in big drops in associated convenience sales like food and drinks from consumers who would otherwise be visiting their stores.”

Dr Kerry Chant, NSW Chief Health Officer, said that NSW Health is taking a zero-tolerance approach to those who sell these products.

“NSW Health regularly conducts raids on retailers across the state to protect young people from these harmful devices. You will be caught, illegal items will be seized, and you could face prosecution, resulting in being fined or even jailed.”

The maximum penalty for retailers illegally selling these products is $1,650 per offence, six-months in prison, or both. The penalties for selling e-cigarettes to minors for individuals is up to $11,000 for a first offence, and up to $55,000 for a second or subsequent offence, while corporations can face up to $55,000 for a first offence, and up to $110,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

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