Australia's most populous state will spend almost $7 million to crack down on the state's illegal vape trade, ramping up raids on tobacconists as rates of young people adopting smoking soar through the roof.
While vaping in Australia is only technically legal for those with a prescription, sales of the electric devices in convenience stores and tobacconists are prevalent all over the country, with almost 200,000 vapes seized in NSW in the first six months of 2023 alone.
Despite the whopping figure, only seven retailers in the state were prosecuted in the 2022-23 financial year, with only 20 retailers in total facing any type of punishment since January 1, 2020, The Daily Telegraph reported.
State ramps up spending on crack down
NSW Premier Chris Minns has committed $4.3 million over the next three years to crack down on retailers, as NSW Health — who oversee tobacco retail compliance — is set to be given a further four tobacco and e-cigarette inspectors, up from seven currently on rotation.
Three new pharmaceutical officers will also be employed. In addition, another $2.5 million will be rolled out over the next year to increase services to help Aussie youth quit vaping, including the "creation of a new digital platform" and an overhaul of the iCanQuit help platform.
It's understood that in the last three weeks in NSW, 23,247 vapes have been seized across retail stores, estimated to have a street value of $695,000, while from January 2022 to June 2023, roughly 369,000 nicotine vapes and e-liquids were also seized with an estimated street value of over $11.8 million.
Minns slams 'public health challenge'
Sydney suburbs where retailers have been caught-out selling the devices include: Randwick, Leppington, Manly, Annandale, Bronte, Campbelltown, Coogee, Dee Why, Engadine, Gymea, Newtown, Riverwood and Stanmore. There have also been prosecutions in Bellambi, Broken Hill, Figtree, Doyalson, Griffith and Hamilton in Newcastle.
Mr Minns said vaping had become a serious public health issue.
“The evidence suggests that vaping is now becoming a gateway for an increase in smoking rates in young people,” he said
“This is a significant public health challenge and taking action on the illegal imports of vapes is going to require co-operation with all levels of government.”
Punishments for retailers selling illegal vapes include fines and a maximum of six months imprisonment.
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