The WA Government has cracked down on the illegal sale of vapes across more than 30 State stores, uncovering half-a-million dollars worth of e-cigarettes with many containing undisclosed amounts of nicotine.
Revealing the haul of more than 15,000 disposable vapes, WA Health Minister Amber-Jade Sanderson said the products imported from overseas are often labeled incorrectly and can contain nicotine.
Of the vapes currently seized, testing through ChemCentre has shown two-thirds of the collection contained undisclosed nicotine — with quantities in some instances equivalent to 50 cigarettes.
The State’s chief pharmacist Meeghan Clay said the vapes can be sold for between $30-$50.
She said many of the seizures had come through tip-offs via WA Police’s Crime Stoppers and included pop-up sales at small stores and delis.
“The hardest ones for us to find are the pop-ups because they’re not as obvious,” she said.
“We’re seeing a very, very small number of vapes now that are stating ‘zero nicotine’. My major concern with that is that these companies are not as scrupulous as ethical companies.
“Our big concern is that although there are a small number of vapes in the stores that don’t have nicotine, there is nothing to stop that company in three months’ time from adding nicotine and still saying ‘zero nicotine’ on the label.
“These have never been legal in Western Australia and we have been doing compliance activities for a number of years now, but we have now stepped it up quite significantly.”
Ms Sanderson said young people can be drawn to the addictive devices by manufacturers using sweet flavors such as bubble gum, grape and strawberry.
The Minister said the Health Department had put 3000 retailers on notice, reminding them of the ongoing sale restrictions.
“We want retailers to do the right thing. We’ve started with our education program,” she said.
The maximum penalty for a breach of the relevant provisions of the Medicines and Poisons Act 2014 is $45,000, while possession of nicotine without a prescription can fetch penalties of up to $30,000.
“It is important that the community remembers that retailers remember it is illegal to sell vapes,” she said.
“It is illegal to purchase a vape without a prescription and you get that prescription from your GP as part of quitting smoking.
“There’s some evidence, but it is limited, that vaping can help adults who want to quit smoking but there are many other mechanisms that you can use.
“It’s always important that if you want to quit smoking, you talk to your GP first.”
Anyone who believes a retailer is selling illegal e-cigarettes or vapes is urged to ‘dob-in-a dealer’ by contacting Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.