Signs of an illicit vape black market have emerged in cities across Australia since the implementation of multiple nicotine vape regulations by the Australian government.
Despite Australia making all nicotine vaping products illegal without a person possessing a doctor’s prescription, the vaping industry continues to rise with new vapers each day – particularly in the underage populations.
This ban is all-encompassing for Australians, including prohibiting the importation of any vape products containing nicotine. Yet nicotine vape products are still readily accessible for vapers, regardless of age or prescription status through an ever-growing black market.
The Australian Vape Ban
The ban on nicotine vape products in Australia came as a result of pressure from the Australian Council on Smoking and Health citing underage vaping allegedly skyrocketing, as well as the common links to “acute lung injuries” that are so often brought up for just about anything regarding vaping.
As with all vaping regulations, the ban took a focus on protecting the underage population, citing the aforementioned “health risks of vaping,” as well as the risk of underage populations becoming addicted to nicotine.
The laws regarding vaping have been present in Australia for a number of years now, with stricter regulations coming intermittently. The ban on the importation of nicotine vaping products came on October 21, 2021.
This was led by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), the Australian regulator agency for drugs.
Since these vape bans came into implementation, New South Wales Health has claimed to have seized upwards of AU$3 million in prohibited items including nicotine e-cigarettes and e-liquids.
Australia’s vaping laws are preposterously strict, making them the most regulated Western country in the world. The penalty for the importation of nicotine vaping products sees violators being fined up to an astronomical AU$222,000 (approximately US$150,000).
Despite such heavy fines backing up the tight regulations, the process of ascertaining a nicotine prescription is incredibly simple in Australia. There are a number of ways to apply for a prescription, even online through sites like QuiteRX. In fact, the process can be used to bypass the whole legal system in a laughably easy manner. The only real prerequisite is that the applicant can verify they are of legal age.
However, this is where the real issue comes into place. If it is so easy for adults to legally acquire a nicotine prescription, what is feeding the surging black market?
The answer is simple – the underage population.
The Consequences of Black Markets
It is no secret that black markets are dangerous for many reasons. In the case of the trade of black market vapes, the biggest danger to the health of prospective clients is the quality of ingredients found in the products.
The ingredients found within a vape can be dangerous – if not properly regulated.
THC vapes are an excellent example of just how hazardous they can be. A huge majority of the acute lung injuries that have been used by regulators over the past few years can be almost solely attributed to the use of vapes containing low-quality cannabinoids and vitamin E acetate, rather than the ingredients found in typical nicotine vapes that are freely available and regulated in many countries.
With about one in ten of the Australian population between 16 and 24 vaping, the prohibition along with the demand for products has resulted in mass import from Chinese factories.
These factories are subject to little to no regulation like many of the western countries where vaping is popular but still regulated. To further increase the risk associated with these black market vape products, ingredient lists are all but non-existent.
Another consequence of illicit trade networks is the lack of, for a lack of a better word, policing. Black market traders do not concern themselves with selling to underage people – it is all business.
This allows minors to access these products without any need to provide documentation verifying that they are of the legal smoking age.
This creates a huge separation between the intention of the laws brought in by concerned regulatory agency officials and the real-life outcomes as more and more products are made readily available to the underage population.
The final nail in the coffin impacts the bonafide vape retailers. Huge losses in income come as a direct result of the tight regulations and prospective customers opting to take the illegal, but easier route to acquire their desired products.
Australia Aren’t The First and They Won’t Be the Last
Australia is an excellent test case in terms of the consequences of vape bans. They certainly are not the first country to implement strict vape laws, but they are the strictest of the western countries.
As western countries continue to tighten their grip on vaping regulations, they run the risk of following Australia’s lead in creating black markets, only worsening the existing concerns.
This is particularly true in the context of America as regulations continue to get stricter. Amidst the continual increase in state-specific flavor bans and FDA marketing orders endlessly rejecting many vaping products, people will likely look elsewhere – even if it means breaking the law.
Australia is one of the strictest countries in the world when it comes to nicotine vape regulations. The goal of preventing underage populations from acquiring vapes has led to a near prohibition of nicotine-containing products. Only adults with existing prescriptions are eligible to purchase nicotine vape products, causing the emergence of a black market.
This black market has become readily accessible by the underage population, completely defeating the intended purpose of such strict regulations.
Australia also serves as an excellent case study for the rest of the world. Many have speculated that vape bans do not work to protect the youth, and the prevalence of illicit trade in all major cities only bolsters this theory.