Question - Pharmacies - Smoking product licences
Wednesday 28 September 2022, Question without notice
Ms ARMITAGE question to LEADER of the GOVERNMENT in the LEGISLATIVE COUNCIL, Mrs HISCUTT
(1) Given that legal and regulated vaping products are classified as therapeutic products, why are Tasmanian pharmacists still required to pay $1218.90 in order to obtain a smoking product licence?
(2) Regulatory amendments in other states have been made to ensure pharmacies dispensing legal and regulated nicotine vaping products are not required to pay fees or obtain licences. Why is Tasmania the only state in Australia to charge such a fee for pharmacies that stock legal and regulated nicotine vaping products?
(3) What is the policy objective of the regulatory framework that establishes the existence and operation of smoking product licences in Tasmania? Does the impost of such a requirement on pharmacies dispensing quitting aids make sense, in light of this objective?
(4) Is the Government considering proposals to require entities that sell other smoking cessation tools, such as nicotine patches and gum, to obtain the $1218.90 smoking product licence?
(5) Will the Government commit to removing the requirement for Tasmanian pharmacies to obtain a smoking product licence and the fees associated with such a licence, to ensure that they can continue to provide high-quality care to patients and to ensure that more Tasmanians quit the deadly habit of smoking?
I thank the member for her question. The answers are interesting.
(1) There are currently no nicotine vaping products approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) and registered in the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods. A product may only be registered as a therapeutic good when the product sponsor has provided sufficient high-quality evidence to the TGA to confirm the product is manufactured at an acceptable standard, is safe and efficacious. To date, vaping products do not have sufficient evidence of quality, safety and efficacy to be registered as a therapeutic good by the TGA. Pharmacists do not pay $1218.90. A licence to only sell e-cigarettes cost $612.
(2) Tasmania has been a leader in Australia in developing statutory controls that limit access to tobacco and other smoking products. Prior to the change to TGA systems to permit pharmacies to dispense nicotine e-cigarettes under prescription from a doctor, Tasmania had a requirement that non-nicotine e-cigarettes could only be sold via a licensed smoking product retailer. The licence did not extend to nicotine e-cigarettes because they were an illegal product except under certain prescribed circumstances. Due to the limited research regarding the safety and efficacy of e‑cigarettes as smoking cessation aids, the Tasmanian Government wants to closely monitor the uptake of these unproven products. Maintaining a requirement for pharmacies, along with other smoking product retailers, to hold a licence to sell smoking products, allows this to happen.
(3) While smoking remains the number one cause of preventable illness and death in Tasmania, sustained action over many years has reduced the prevalence of smoking. A robust licensing system for smoking product sales is a key element to Tasmania's strategy to reduce the prevalence of smoking. The Tasmanian Government continues to assert that the use of e-cigarettes should not be encouraged, particularly in relation to young people. There is limited evidence that e-cigarettes can support quit attempts. Identified health risks of e-cigarettes include addiction, poisoning, seizures, burns and lung injury. Research shows that non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are three times as likely to go into smoking combustible tobacco cigarettes as non-smokers who do not use e-cigarettes.
As mentioned, due to the limited research regarding the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes as smoking cessation aids, the Tasmanian Government wants to closely monitor the uptake of these unproven products. Maintaining a requirement for pharmacies, along with other smoking product retailers, to hold a licence to sell smoking products, allows this to happen.
Recent changes to the scheduling of nicotine by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) provide a pathway that may be used by people who smoke to access e-cigarettes containing nicotine via their doctor to support their quit attempts. These approaches will still limit access to e-cigarettes with nicotine but encourage people seeking to stop smoking to consult with their medical practitioner.
(4) Nicotine patches and gum are not smoking products and therefore are not regulated through the Public Health Act 1997.
(5) In line with changes announced by the Therapeutic Goods Administration in October last year, Tasmania has provided an avenue for people who smoke to access e-cigarettes containing nicotine on prescription from their doctor. While doctors can prescribe these products, the RACGP guidelines advise that they are not recommended as a first option for quitting smoking. Tasmania will continue to monitor the evidence base in this space. No steps are being taken to remove the requirement for smoking product licences in pharmacy settings.