Sellers of illegal vapes across Australia have made the most of the government’s new reforms by “jacking up” the prices of disposable nicotine products by up to three times what they used to cost.
News.com.au visited 10 convenience stores selling vapes across Sydney’s CBD on Friday – all of which had supply.
The most common vape – an IGET 3500 puff bar – cost $25 at some stores, while others charged a whopping $55 for the exact same product.
“It’s not even banned. It’s just because people just think they are banned and it’s in the media, people can sell them for what they like,” one seller said.
The Australian government introduced a ban on the importation of all disposable non-nicotine vapes from January 1, with all other vape devices, such as reusable vapes to be banned from March 1.
The importation and selling of disposable nicotine vapes have always been illegal in Australia, however, the new legislation has caused confusion and fear in vapers, who are now going out in droves to “stock up” amid the crackdown.
Legalise Vaping Australia director Brian Marlow said a regular “under the counter” vape which once cost $20 is now being sold for $60 in affluent areas, such as Potts Point.
“Nothing has changed. All the dealers have done is jacked up the price because there is a public perception that supplies are running out,” he said.
“They’ve always been illegal. All that [the new reforms] have allowed is for the dealers to make higher profit margins because they’re buying a more illegal product.”
On one occasion at an Ezymart on Oxford Street, the seller said the cost of the vape was $35 before quickly offering a discount taking the price to $32. Other sellers encouraged the purchase of multiple vapes with a one for $30 or two for $55 deal.
“I used to always buy my vape for $25 at the same shop in Redfern just a few weeks ago. Now all of a sudden, it’s $30,” one vaper told news.com.au.
Suppliers from China who manufacture the product are so confident Australia’s new reforms will do little to stop the products getting past the border some are now even offering insurance to buyers of bulk products.
One ad obtained by news.com.au from a manufacturer states it has a daily operation of “more than 30 tonnes” of vapes being sent to Australia and boasts a “0.01 per cent” rating of stock being pinged at the border and an “independent professional customs clearance team”.
Mixology vape store general manager Gareth Evans has shut down operations in Australia amid the crackdown with his final store in Brookvale closing next week.
He said the new legislation is targeting the wrong people and forcing the aboveboard shops to close while the black market thrives.
Mr Evans said his stores had regular customers who were reducing their nicotine levels slowly with vapes as a way to quit smoking. With the new reforms, these vapers will be forced to go back to cigarettes, go to the black market or go cold turkey.
“We’ve had kids coming in crying, addicted to vapes and that’s only happened because the black market has been able to flourish,” he said.
“We are just thankful we are getting out. The black market will continue; it will just be more expensive. In two years, they’ll realise this isn’t working.”