More than 13 tonnes of disposable vapes worth an estimated $4.5m have been seized by border authorities since Australia’s new vaping laws took effect in January.
Over the past week, border officials detected about 150,000 vaping products that were illegally smuggled through large air cargo shipments into Adelaide.
The government said the large-scale seizure was the first of its kind since the importation of disposable vapes was outlawed on January 1.
Speaking on Tuesday, Health Minister Mark Butler said 250,000 vaping products had been confiscated since the beginning of the year and he issued a stern warning to illegal sellers.
“This market is trying to recruit a new generation to nicotine, putting these vapes into the hands of the youngest Australians,” he said.
“It’s also funding the criminal activities of organised crime gangs, drug trafficking, sex trafficking and the like, so I just appeal to businesses and other commercial entities that have become involved in this market … find another way to make money.”
There are an estimated 1.3 million adult vape users in Australia.
Under the federal government’s recent crackdown, the only vapes legally allowed into the country are pharmaceutical products prescribed by a doctor to help people quit smoking.
It’s widely expected that the changes will lead to an uptick in black market activity. According to the health department, the illegal market for vapes in Australia represents a “significant” portion of supply and is worth over $400 million annually.
Illegal sellers have already begun inflating their prices since laws took effect on January 1, with some in the Sydney CBD reportedly charging users up to $55 for a single vape.
Australian Border Force Assistant Commissioner Chris Waters said as new regulations kicked in, many overseas suppliers would try to smuggle vaping products illegally into the country.
“Unlawful behaviour in relation to vape imports at the border will be detected and the goods will be seized,” he said.
“We expect many international vaping suppliers will continue to attempt to send products to Australia and may seek to change their behaviour to avoid detection.”