Vaping patients likely to present in pharmacy

New guidelines for pharmacists as the vaping loophole closes

The PSA, with support from the Commonwealth Department of Health, has developed guidelines and education to support Australian pharmacists through changes to access to nicotine for vaping.

In December 2020, the TGA announced that from 1 October 2021, people would need scripts to access liquid nicotine for inhalation in e-cigarettes, in a move welcomed by numerous health stakeholders.

“From today, a prescription will be required to access nicotine vaping products,” said Claire Antrobus, Manager, Practice Support and project lead at PSA.

“When nicotine vaping products are prescribed under the Authorised Prescriber Scheme or the Special Access Scheme they can be dispensed through local pharmacies.

“As a result of these legislative changes, we are likely to see patients presenting to pharmacies, to access nicotine vaping products via prescription.”

She said that the guidelines outline the pharmacist’s role in providing smoking cessation support and key requirements for dispensing nicotine vaping products, including counselling and safety considerations.

“There are currently no nicotine vaping products registered on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods, so access to these unapproved therapeutic goods will occur via the Special Access Scheme, Authorised Prescriber Scheme or Personal Importation Scheme pathway.

“These guidelines provide information for pharmacists about the key considerations for supporting patients to stop smoking, including the special considerations for nicotine vaping products,” Ms Antrobus said.

The change has been welcomed by the Australian Medical Association, which described it as closing a “loophole” in federal legislation which allowed unregulated importation and illegal sale of vaping products containing nicotine.

“Vaping is not the risk-free version of smoking that some would have us believe,” said AMA president Dr Omar Khorshid.

“It is addictive, is associated with proven harms and we know that if nicotine gets into the hands of young children and is ingested, it is highly toxic and can be fatal in very small amounts.

“The vaping lobby will inevitably moan about a terrible new imposition and make exaggerated claims that a smoking cessation tool is being lost,” Dr Khorshid said.

“The reality is that there is very little evidence that nicotine vaping products are effective in smoking cessation, whilst there is clear evidence that they act as a gateway for young non-smokers to become smokers, in addition to causing nicotine addiction and poisoning.”

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  1. Debbie Rigby

    It’s worth reading and considering the TSANZ and Lung Foundation submission and TSANZ position statement to understand the risks associated with vaping.

  2. Debbie Rigby

    An excellent article in Conversation today on Phillip Morris, giant tobacco company, and its interest in vaping products and inhaler devices – profiting from the illnesses tobacco creates

    See this article for a list of inhaler devices with excipients patented by Vectura

  3. Ron Batagol

    Good summary of the issues. I especially like the comments of the AMA that:
    ““Vaping is not the risk-free version of smoking that some would have us believe,” and

    “It is addictive, is associated with proven harms and we know that if nicotine gets into the hands of young children and is ingested, it is highly toxic and can be fatal in very small amounts”.

  4. Peter Allen

    Risk : benefit is everything.
    In our current risk-averse community, “risky” vaping is up against the overseas evidence that making it readily available does help quitting.
    But somebody might abuse it. Oh golly. Lock it down. 9pm vaping curfew. Only out in the open preferably on a golf course with one other consenting adult chaperone. Apply a tough drug regulation listing to inhibit its use. Dan would be proud.

  5. John Guy

    Everyone should stop thinking about vaping as merely a smoking cessation tool.
    Instead, think about it as harm minimisation akin to opioid replacement therapy.
    Nicotine is indeed harmful to children but this is why it is on prescription.

  6. Miranda Righter

    How many people die from smoking every year?
    How many people die from vaping?
    How much nicotine is in NRT products?
    How many children get their hands on cigarettes?
    How many children go from vaping to cigarettes?
    How about some evidence based answers to these questions?

    • Amandarose

      a a mother of teens I can say it is almost the norm for kids top vape now. so glad to see it made illegal without a script – not that it will make any difference.

  7. Nicholas Birnie

    Restriction of access is just going to lead to people reverting to cigarettes

    I don’t necessarily disagree with the premise of prescription, but currently there’s too many barriers to access currently

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