As disposable vapes and packets litter the streets of suburbs around Penrith, the black market for electronic cigarettes is booming.
With more than 1.1 million Australians choosing to vape, advocates are campaigning to regulate the industry to make the products safer and less accessible to youth.
In October last year, the Federal Government implemented legislation that restricted people to access nicotine for e-cigarettes by prescription only, but research from Convenience Measures Australia revealed that 88 per cent of purchases are being made illegally.
Owner of Everest Vape, Peter Thompson, said that the change in policy has created negative flow on effects that were not anticipated by government.
“We only sell the devices and e-liquid then previously over 18’s could legally import nicotine from overseas, but now they have to find a GP to get a prescription but not many know what to do,” he said.
“Now mass-produced disposable vapes with high nicotine content are being sold under the counter at places like tobacconists or corner stores, which kids can get their hands on.”
Mr Thompson said his business has experienced a 20 per cent loss due to the uptake of illegal sales.
“A lot of retailers doing the right thing are feeling the pinch but because the penalties are so minute others are just shipping them in from China,” he said.
“I think taxing it like tobacco means adults who don’t want to smoke cigarettes can access it and kids will struggle to get it.”
A spokesperson from the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) said the current laws were unlikely to change.
“They are designed to balance the need to reduce non-medical use of nicotine vaping products (NVPs), especially by adolescents and children, while enabling current smokers to access NVPs to assist with giving up smoking under medical supervision,” the spokesperson said.
“Importantly, they balance that while there is some evidence that use of NVPs may be helpful as an aid to give up smoking, there is also evidence that their use may give rise to adverse health effects and lead to nicotine addiction and tobacco use, particularly among young people.”
Campaign Director of Legalise Vaping Australia, Brian Marlow, said the organisation will continue to work with all levels of government to introduce stronger regulation.
“Vaping products exist to be less harmful than cigarettes, so adult vapers should be able to show ID to buy them and we won’t allow them to be marketed or advertised to kids,” Mr Marlow said.
“We know what we are proposing does work because we aren’t the first country to invest in this model. New Zealand do it, the UK does it, Canada and most countries in Europe do it.
“Instead, we are hoping that criminals make these disposable vapes out of materials that won’t hurt people while the existing industry is completely ignored.”
A graduate of Western Sydney University, Emily covers Local, State and Federal politics for the Weekender, as well as crime and general news.