NSW Police have seized tobacco products and money during a search warrant of a Gunnedah business as part of ongoing investigations in alleged sales of illegal tobacco sales.

Police from the Oxley Police District attended a business in Gunnedah recently where a search warrant was executed. The location of the business was not known but at least one retailer on Marquis Street said it was not involved. Another business on the eastern end of Conadilly Street was closed.

The Gunnedah seizure follows new legislation which prohibits the illegal sale of nicotine e-cigarettes (vapes) and a state-wide crackdown on the products. Vaping products containing nicotine are now only available when prescribed by a medical practitioner or nurse practitioner and can only be legally dispensed from a pharmacy in Australia with a valid prescription.

For all other retailers in NSW, the sale of e-cigarettes or e-liquids containing nicotine is illegal. This also includes online sales. The maximum penalty for illegally selling them without prescription to anyone is $1650 per offence, six-months in prison or both, under the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Act 1966.

Selling these products to minors carries heavier penalties. Retailers and individuals can also be prosecuted for selling e-cigarette products to minors, with maximum penalties:

• For individuals, up to $11,000 for a first offence, and up to $55,000 for a second or subsequent offence;

• For corporations, up to $55,000 for a first offence, and up to $110,000 for a second or subsequent offence.

Currently e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are legal in NSW to people over 18 years. Adults can buy and use e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine. But once the vaping reforms are fully implemented later this year, tobacconists, vape shops and convenience stores will no longer be able to lawfully sell any type of vape.

Federal Minister for Health Mark Butler said the Australian government is reforming the regulation of vapes, including removing loopholes in existing laws, and increasing enforcement in cooperation with states and territories.

“On January 1, 2024, the first stage of our reforms made the importation of single use disposable vapes illegal, except in very limited circumstances,” Mr Butler said. “Stronger controls on the importation, manufacture, supply and advertising of vapes will be progressively implemented over 2024.”

The NSW Minister for Health Ryan Park said it’s important that retailers take action now to minimise financial losses and ensure they comply with the new rules.

“The NSW government committed $6.8 million over three years in the budget to invest in a crackdown on the sale of illegal vapes and increase support for young people who are addicted to vaping,” he said.

“Vapes are not a safe alternative to smoking and we are doing everything we can to educate young people on the harms of vaping and to protect them from those same harms.

“More evidence continues to come to light about the dangers associated with vapes. They aren’t innocent flavoured water, they contain harmful chemicals which can also be found in weed killer and antifreeze.

“Officers have been finding some retailers have placed products in hidden rooms behind fake walls and in secret panels and drawers to hide the devices, but we have and will continue to find them.”

Last month the National Vaping Working Group (NVWG) held its inaugural meeting in Canberra.

The NVWG was established by the joint meeting of health and police ministers on November 23. It will oversee the development and implementation of a National Vaping Enforcement Framework to stamp out unlawful vapes in the community.

The NVWG is co-chaired by Michael Outram APM, Commissioner, Australian Border Force (ABF) and Susan Pearce AM, Secretary, NSW Health and comprises senior officials from all state and territory health departments and police forces, the ABF, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, and the Australian Federal Police.

Anyone with information about the sale of illegal tobacco products and vapes in Gunnedah is encouraged to contact Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.

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