Over 35 tonnes of vaping products have been seized at the border over the past month, but Theo Foukkare, CEO of the Australian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), says this is “just two days of supply”.
The seizures are part of a joint campaign between the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) known as Campaign OBELIA and resulted in the detection of roughly $11 million in street value of nicotine vaping products.
Foukkare said while the announcement was a step in the right direction, it only represents less than two days’ supply of the 100 million illegal vapes entering Australia each year.
“Mark Butler announced he’d crackdown on the vaping black market 12 months ago, so seizing just two days’ supply away from the illegal black market in that time virtually does nothing to address Australia’s illegal vaping crisis.
“Families dealing with the fallout of Australia’s black market youth vaping crisis will feel little relief from less than 0.4 per cent of the problem being addressed.”
Of the more than 35 tonnes of vaping products, the TGA estimates that more than 92 per cent of these, or around 376,000 products, were unlawful.
Health Minister Mark Butler applauded the TGA and the ABF for removing the large number of vapes out of the Australian market.
“The enormous volume of suspected unlawful vaping products seized in this campaign alone demonstrates the challenges we face in tackling this issue—one we are tackling head-on.”
Foukkare said that since Minister Butler announced he would fix this issue last November, the number of adult vapers in Australia has grown by 23 per cent to more than 1.6 million – despite the retail sale of nicotine vapes being illegal since 2021.
“This rapidly growing adult consumer demand is supporting a black market that is now importing over 100 million unregulated illegal vapes each year, with the criminals smuggling them willing to sell to anyone, including children.”
Following comments from the Head of the ABF earlier this year that only a quarter of illicit drugs are detected at the border, Foukkare explained that it is clear that much more needs to be done by the Health Minister.
“Every day the Health Minister takes no action to overturn the failed prohibition prescription-only vaping policy that has been in place since 2021, more and more kids purchase unregulated and easily accessible addictive products from the black market.
“Australia doesn’t have a youth smoking or drinking crisis, because adult consumers purchase those products through a strictly controlled market – it’s no wonder RedBridge research finds nearly 90 per cent of all voters want the same framework for nicotine vapes to fix the current unregulated black market.”