The National Retail Association (NRA) has formed a new Committee to be the voice for retailers of vaping products in Australia.
The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) recently ruled that from 1 October, consumers would only be allowed to access nicotine e-cigarettes and vape products with a doctor’s prescription from a pharmacy, essentially locking out thousands of small businesses that have a proven history of responsibly selling regulated products such as tobacco, lotteries, and alcohol.
Jeff Rogut, the former CEO of the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has been appointed as advisor and spokesperson for the committee. Rogut has been a spokesperson for retailers for more than 10 years and has strongly supported the rights of retailers and smokers through numerous government submissions and appearances at government inquiries.
Rogut told C&I that the new NRA committee will continue lobbying the government against the “illogical” policy that allows people to buy vaping products freely online from overseas retailers, but not in Australia. The NRA believes Australian retailers should be able to responsibly sell nicotine products over the counter in the same way as stores in New Zealand, the US, the UK, Canada, Korea, and other countries around the world.
“Vaping is one of those things that has grown in popularity and there are an estimated half a million consumers of vaping products in Australia,” says Rogut.
“The issue is that nicotine is an illegal product and cannot be sold by retailers, and we’ve recently seen the shortsightedness of the government in not allowing convenience stores, tobacconists or anybody else to sell it. They are looking at restricting that to pharmacies, which we are lobbying quite fiercely against. They’re making all of this legislation and regulations without fully understanding the full impact of their decisions.”
The NRA and AACS have long urged the Federal Health Minister to allow small businesses to supply smoke-free alternatives to current consumers of cigarettes and tobacco products.
In fact, the Chair’s report from a recent Senate Inquiry on Tobacco Harm Reduction agreed with their stance and set out a clear and rational case for making it easy for tobacco users to transition to less harmful smoke-free alternatives.
But Rogut says that the TGA’s ruling goes against this and will make it more difficult and more expensive for consumers to transition away from tobacco products and towards nicotine vape products, potentially leading to an increase in black market sales.
“As we have seen with tobacco, the harder you make it and the more expensive you make it, you drive the products underground.
“The danger for the government is that consumers will move to buying these products from the criminal elements and the ‘black market’ importers, as we have seen happen with tobacco products, and they won’t know what the product is or what it contains. Yes, it might be cheaper and easier to get but from a health point of view it might do more harm than good, and that is the shortsighted thing that the government appears to have overlooked,” he says.
The NRA is urging any retailer or importer of vaping products to join the NRA’s Emerging Business Committee to have their voices heard in Canberra.