Pharmacy e-cigarette ads allowed in ‘some circumstances’

Pharmacies supplying prescription nicotine e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine may, in some circumstances, be allowed advertise, TGA says

Advertising the availability of nicotine e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine to patients with a prescription may, in specified circumstances, be allowed by pharmacies, the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) says.

The announcement follows the listing on Friday 2 July of a special permission for pharmacists to make ‘restricted representations’ of these products. 

In a statement released today (Monday 5 July), the TGA said “generally, it is not lawful to advertise prescription medicines. However, the TGA has granted a legal permission which allows pharmacies and a pharmacy marketing groups to advertise (i.e. promote), through certain media, where to obtain nicotine e-cigarettes and liquid nicotine with a prescription”.

“This means that patients who have been prescribed liquid nicotine for smoking cessation will know where they can fill prescriptions,” the statement said.

The pharmacy must ensure that such advertising is within the terms of the Therapeutic Goods (Restricted and Prohibited Representations – Nicotine) Permission 2021 (see here

Generally, the advertising of nicotine e-cigarettes is prohibited under state and territory laws, however, “where the advertising of nicotine vaping products complies with the legal permission issued by the TGA under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, the state and territory prohibitions, to the extent of the TGA permission, will not apply,” the agency clarified.

“A pharmacy that dispenses nicotine e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine on prescription may, in specified circumstances, promote to those wishing to fill their prescription that it holds stock”.

The TGA guidance states it is acceptable to:

  • use information to assist the public in obtaining nicotine vaping products such as:
    • the location at which the e-cigarettes or nicotine vaping products are available on prescription to assist with smoking cessation
    • the kinds of nicotine vaping products that are available, for example nicotine vape liquids, nicotine e-liquids or devices such as e-cigarettes (including e-cigarettes that resemble a combustible cigarette, one that uses pods or another called ‘mods’) – however note that no trade names are allowed
    • the concentrations available
    • whether the nicotine solution is in base or salt form

However, any promotion must not:

  • be made using radio or television (including streaming services)
  • be promoted on websites or any other advertising that is not under the direct control of the pharmacy or pharmacy marketing group
  • be promoted by social media influencers or brand ambassadors
  • be promoted through social media platforms using paid promotion
  • contain pictorial representations of nicotine e-cigarettes or liquid nicotine
  • contain trade names
  • contain references to flavours
  • statements or the implication that vaping is not harmful or is less harmful than smoking
  • contain statements or the implication that the stocked e-cigarette is superior to another
  • include incentives to encourage a user to take up nicotine e-cigarettes

Presenting factual and balanced information about using e-cigarettes is unlikely to be considered advertising or promotional, subject to the context in which the information is presented, the TGA advised.

Examples of this include:

  • a pharmacist providing their general view in relation to vaping broadly (provided they do not promote particular brands of nicotine e-cigarettes)
  • medical journal articles or genuine new articles
  • re-tweeting or sharing valuable news-worthy information from reputable sources about using nicotine e-cigarettes that would not have the effect of promoting their use, or
  • presenting comprehensive information that doesn’t emphasise the benefits over, for example, the risks and limitations.

“As a general guideline, if the content persuades consumers, for example through the use of promotional terms or language, to seek out nicotine e-cigarettes, then it would be considered advertising”.

Go here to see examples of allowed or disallowed representations 

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