‘Chemist monopoly’ on vaping slammed

The National Retail Association claims that the Federal Government’s proposal to limit smoke-free nicotine to pharmacies is the “worst of both worlds”

NRA CEO Dominique Lamb says that the proposal will cause difficulty for smaller convenience retailers, many of whom currently rely on tobacco sales as part of their income.

The proposal would lock such retailers out of the transition to less harmful alternatives such as e-cigarettes or vaping, she says.

“The NRA understands the Federal Government has asked the Therapeutic Goods Administration to consider whether smoke-free nicotine products should be made available for sale in pharmacies – either by prescription or with the authorisation of a pharmacist,” Ms Lamb said.

“This makes no sense, that cigarettes would be freely available over the counter in corner stores and service stations, but the product that can help people transition away from smoking would be restricted.

“So outside doctors’ or pharmacists’ work hours, the only available option would be cigarettes. This flies in the face of common sense.”

Ms Lamb has written to all members of the Federal Government welcoming its stance that nicotine vaping products as less harmful than cigarettes, but expressing concern about potential damage the “pharmacy monopoly” would cause small retail businesses.

“Retailers are opposed to this highly deficient approach which represents the worst of both worlds in terms of disrupting local retail market dynamics, and detracts from the public health opportunities at hand that a more inclusive retail model would deliver,” the letter says.

“The deliberate exclusion of family and small businesses being able to participate in the sale of these less harmful alternatives to cigarettes is unconscionable, illogical and indefensible.”

The letter calls on the Government to withdraw its proposal, which she says allows it to “pick favourites and create a monopoly”.

Ms Lamb told The Australian that, “It can only be concluded, given the community pharmacy opposition to vaping, that the regulatory reform proposal as progressed will do nothing more than hand a virtual monopoly right to retail these products to a narrow cohort of highly concentrated ‘big box’ pharmacy commercial interests.”

Anthony Tassone, Victorian branch president of the Pharmacy Guild, urged caution around decisions on vaping in general, highlighting that at this stage products for use in e-cigarettes are not currently TGA approved.

“The Guild’s current position, pending any announcement by the TGA in relation to scheduling, is that we currently don’t support e-cigarettes given the potential harm, as the risk profile for these products has not been well established previously against any therapeutic benefit,” he told the AJP

“The TGA has previously not approved the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool.

“If the TGA as a regulator now approves the nicotine containing e-cigarettes as a tool to help smokers quit, on a prescription-only basis, we will review our policy accordingly and the potential benefit for patients.

“Pharmacists are a trusted health professional in our community and patients will often seek out our expert advice regarding medicines and devices, with smoking cessation no exception. 

“A clear understanding of the evidence base will be crucial to do what’s best for patients.”

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