Vaping Advertisers and Importers Get $170,000 in Fines from TGA | Health

The Australian drug regulator has fined four individuals and companies more than $170,000 for illegally advertising or importing vaping products, with one company receiving more than $100,000 in infringement reports.

In October, laws came into effect preventing nicotine-containing vape products from being available without a prescription. Doctors would only prescribe them as a last resort when more proven smoking cessation treatments don’t work. The law changes were prompted by concerns about the health effects of vaping, and data showing that children are increasingly using the products.

Since the new laws came into effect, websites have sprung up that offer to match vapers with a health professional who is authorized to prescribe the products. But the new laws only allow pharmacies and pharmacy marketing groups to advertise to a very limited extent. Non-pharmacy websites that advertise vape products or advertise links to online suppliers are unlikely to comply with nicotine advertising permissions.

The latest company to be fined by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) for violating the guidelines is Sydney-based company Mason Online. The largest shareholder is Bunleng Chhun who is registered as the owner of what claims to be the largest vape store in Australia. The website is registered to a New Zealand email address.

In a statement, the TGA said Mason Online is responsible for a number of vaping websites, one of which promoted the use and delivery of nicotine vaping products in a non-compliant manner. Under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989, vaping products containing nicotine are prescription drugs only and may not be advertised to the public.

The TGA made eight infringement reports totaling $106,560 to Mason Online after the company reportedly failed to respond to multiple warnings about their ads.

“If the TGA requests an individual to review their website and remove all non-compliant advertisements, it is not enough that the website is redirected to a foreign domain or that references to a local physical store are removed from the website. ‘, said a statement from the regulator.

“The TGA reminds advertisers of the recent warning not to engage in deceptive behavior.”

Earlier in November, the TGA issued three infringement notices totaling $7,992 to a person from Melbourne for alleged infringements of imports of nicotine vaporization products. There are currently no TGA-approved nicotine vaporization products registered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. Drugs that are not on the registry are known as unapproved drugs.

In the past month, the TGA also issued three infringement notices totaling $39,960 to Sydney-based company RV Global Ecommerce for allegedly unlawful advertising of nicotine vaping products, and eleven infringement notices totaling $18,648 to a Melbourne-based person responsible for the Vapespot website for the same offense.

The chief executive of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health [Acosh]Maurice Swanson said he was pleased to see the TGA acted quickly after the laws were introduced.

“We welcome the strict monitoring of illegal advertising that does not follow TGA guidelines,” he said. “The TGA’s advertising guidelines are well-known and well-promoted, so companies can’t claim they weren’t aware of it.”

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Swanson said Acosh is now part of a group monitoring access to vaping products, particularly by children, as part of research to find out if and how nicotine vaping products are illegally obtained.

“As part of that, we are meeting with the regional border force commanders to build a bridge to those good people who are trying to stop the stuff from coming in,” he said. “If they open an incoming package and they can’t find a valid, genuine prescription that came with the product, they alert the TGA. But they can’t get to every package.”

Swanson said he hoped legislation on nicotine vaping products would prevent vaping in public from being normalized for children and teens.

“Young people are already exposed to a plethora of vaping promotions on various social media platforms, such as TikTok,” he said. “It’s all about glorifying vaping and showing off the different vape products. There is good evidence that some of that glorification and promotion is sponsored by the tobacco industry, which pays the influencers to do them. We are now monitoring untrustworthy websites that offer these products.”

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