NSW’s $6.8 million vape crackdown “won’t make a dent” in black market

The NSW Government has announced $6.8 million in funding to crackdown on the sale of illegal vapes and youth addiction support.

The government has allocated $4.3 million to be spent over the next three years to bolster compliance and enforcement and $2.5 million over the next year to increase services to help young people quit vaping.

Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), believes the investment will not even make a dent in the black market.

“In New South Wales alone, we believe there are more than 700 illegal stores that are selling either illicit tobacco or illegal vapes. And I personally have reported these to all of the relevant authorities over the last 12 to 24 months, and we’re just not seeing the enforcement.”

Currently, the maximum penalty for selling vape products containing nicotine in NSW is $1,650, which Foukkare believes is simply not big enough.

“We’ve had reports that some of these dodgy retailers are turning over between $30,000 and $40,000 a week. When you’re importing them for next to nothing and making huge margins, a $2,000 fine is nothing.”

In the week commencing 5 September 2023, NSW Health inspectors ran a targeted campaign to crack down on illicit vapes. These raids seized 23,247 vaping devices with a street value of over $695,000.

Ryan Park, NSW Minister for Health, said that they are putting resources behind their efforts to ramp up vaping enforcement to meet the pervasiveness of these products.

“Tough action is needed to stop the illegal sale of vapes containing nicotine and to prevent vapes from finding their way into the hands of minors.

“As the evidence around just how damaging vaping is mounts and the number of young people who vape increases, we need to put everything into the fight against it.”

Foukkare and AACS have been advocating for years for the regulation of these products, stating the Federal Government is losing $5 billion a year in excise and GST to the black market.

“What we need to do is simply regulate nicotine vaping products, like alcohol and tobacco. With strict age ID, strict product standards, strict licensing, and strict enforcement. That’s how you keep it out of the hands of kids.”

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