According to foreign reports, if Australian e-cigarette users celebrate too much today, please forgive me.
After a week of public outrage, Australian health minister Greg Hunt withdrew and delayed the strict nicotine import ban, which was due to take effect on July 1.
The ban, announced a week ago, will prevent electronic cigarette users in Australia from getting access to break nicotine into mixed electronic liquids and is now delayed until January 1, 2021.
The health minister has been increasingly opposed to a ban that includes members of his own party.
On Thursday, 28 members of the ruling coalition signed a letter opposing the ban on nicotine imports.
Angry opponents went to social media and called and wrote to officials to complain. A petition created by two members of Congress against the ban received more than 52000 signatures in less than 24 hours.
Hunter on Friday announced a delay and promised to simplify the process, allowing users to get nicotine through a prescription.
Currently, because state law makes the process onerous or impossible, the pharmacy does not sell nicotine. This makes it impossible for e-cigarette users, even if they have a doctor's prescription, to get nicotine without having to buy it abroad and ship it to Australia.
The ban will prevent all imports and leave e-cigarette users without legal sources of nicotine.
In Australia, the sale of electronic liquids containing nicotine is illegal, where nicotine (other than cigarettes and drugs) is classified as a toxic substance. Electronic cigarette users are allowed to import prescription drugs for personal use for three months. Many users ignore prescription requirements and import illegally.
The restrictions were not strictly enforced. However, the changes announced by hunt will require cooperation between the Ministry of health and the Australian border forces to implement the import ban. Customs officials will have the right to confiscate all nicotine shipments, even if they were paid before the ban was announced. Penalties for violations of the import ban will include fines of up to $220000.
In the week since hunt announced its July 1 ban, panicked users reportedly tried to store nicotine and ordered large quantities of it from dealers in other countries. Some Australian home appliance dealers are said to have sold out of refrigerators.
Of the major countries, only Australia and India completely prohibit the sale of nicotine atomized products. Most countries regulate the sale and manufacture of e-cigarettes, and the UK even encourages smokers to use e-cigarettes.
As hunt was forced to retreat, public outrage over his proposed ban rekindled in the public mind, and now it's time for consumers and businesses to push congressmen aggressively to find smart and permanent solutions. Some are eager for change, even from Hunter's own liberal party.
James Paterson, a Liberal MP, told the guardian on Friday that six months gave us time to build a system that would be available to anyone who needed to use these safer alternatives.