Monday, June 24, 2024

Thousands of illegal vapes seized as SA Health swoops

More than 4,500 illegal vapes with an estimated street value of more than $113,000 have been taken off the streets and 12 Adelaide businesses slapped with fines during a targeted crackdown on illegal nicotine sales SA Health.

During the eight-week blitz:
– 207 inspections were carried out across 180 individual businesses in metropolitan and outer Adelaide;
– 15 were found to be selling illegal nicotine vapes including six retailers in the Adelaide CBD;
– 12 businesses were fined including nine for a breach of licence conditions through the sale, supply or possession of nicotine vapes ($500) and three for the sale of e-cigarettes while unlicensed ($1,000), which were also found to contain nicotine;
– One formal caution was issued and a final determination is yet to be made on two businesses, including whether to take further legal action such as prosecution or licence removal.

One business alone was caught with 2,013 illegal vapes. This retailer was unlicensed and discovered after a tip-off from the public.

SA Health says some brands of seized vapes were found to contain alarming levels of nicotine posing a serious public health concern. This included one brand which had the equivalent of at least three cigarette packs of nicotine in one vape.

One of the seized vapes.

SA Health Authorised Officers also discovered some retailers attempting to conceal illicit products, including one business trying to hide nicotine vapes in empty pizza boxes (main photo) near their service area.

“A number of businesses surrendered vapes, including one which was shaped like a drink cup with the straw acting as the mouthpiece and clearly targeted towards children. This novelty vape was given to the business as a sample likely to encourage the business to order more,” SA Health said in a statement.

The businesses inspected included convenience stores, service stations, supermarkets, tobacconists, and vaping specialty stores.

SA Health officials conducted follow-up inspections on 13 of the non-compliant businesses and all except one had modified their behaviour with no nicotine vaping products found on their premises.

“Inspection data also suggests that one supplier may be responsible for providing nicotine vaping products to five out of the 15 retailers caught doing the wrong thing. As this supplier is located interstate, SA Health will be forwarding this information to relevant government agencies for their review and investigation,” said SA Health.

The blitz coincided with tough new licence conditions that make clear that selling nicotine e-cigarettes is illegal.

The stringent conditions require retailers to show proof that vaping products being sold are nicotine-free and provide information about their e-cigarette suppliers, importers or manufacturers, so the products can be traced.

Licence holders are reminded that failure to comply with the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act 1997 may results in expiations and SA Health may commence prosecutions and/or revoke licences for serious or continuous non-compliances.

“We are pleased to see the overwhelming majority of South Australian businesses are doing the right thing and have either ceased selling vapes or have taken the necessary steps to ensure that their vape products are nicotine-free,” said SA Health, Health Protection and Regulation Executive Director, Dr Chris Lease.

“The South Australian community has also played a big part in helping us to confront this concerning issue by reporting businesses suspected of doing the wrong thing.

“SA Health will now assess compliance with nicotine vaping licence conditions as part of our routine inspections, to ensure businesses continue to do the right thing.”

On 7 September, the SA Governor issued a proclamation formally exempting Authorised Officers from the Confidentiality provisions in the Tobacco and E-Cigarette Products Act 1997. This exemption now allows SA Health to readily share inspection findings with other government agencies such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration, Australian Border Force, Australian Taxation Office, and interstate health departments.

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