· In short: More than 13 tonnes of disposable vapes have been seized in the first large-scale bust in Australia since import bans took place.
· In total, an estimated $7.4 million of vapes have been stopped from entering the community.
· What's next? Further import bans on vapes will take effect from March 1.
The Australian Border Force (ABF) has seized more than 13 tonnes of disposable vapes in Adelaide in what the federal government says is the first large-scale bust since new laws took effect this year.
Authorities said nearly 250,000 vapes – with an estimated street value of $7.4 million – have been intercepted since January 1, when it became illegal to import disposable, single use vapes.
ABF Assistant Commissioner Chris Waters said during the past week, about 150,000 disposable vapes worth $4.5 million were seized in two shipments in South Australia.
Border force officers became suspicious when 14 air cargo consignments declared as "refillable atomiser" arrived from a single point of origin.
Mr Waters said the shipments came from China and arrived in Melbourne before being moved to South Australia.
"Investigations are still continuing, but we don't think South Australia was the sole intended location for these vapes," Mr Waters said.
"We've seen a significant decrease in the importation since [January 1] as industry has adapted to those changes.
"It's difficult to know what the market is, but quarter of a million is a pretty good start for the first 30 days of [this] new legislation."
Mr Waters said no charges had been laid yet, but investigations were continuing.
He said border officials had seen more passengers entering Australia surrender single use vapes at international airports after new rules limiting visitors to two single use vapes per person came in at the start of the year.
Federal Health Minister Mark Butler praised the efforts of ABF in one of the biggest seizures of vapes in Australia.
"This is a quarter of a million disposable vapes that will not end up in the hands of our children," Mr Butler said.
"Importantly, it's also choking off a market that is increasingly controlled by organised crime, by outlaw motorcycle gangs and other organised criminal gangs."
Mr Butler said the tobacco industry had been marketing vapes towards children and young people "with one objective in mind, that is to recruit a new generation to nicotine addiction".
"The tragedy of this is not only were we deceived, but that it's working," he said.
"We heard stories over the last few months in exam seasons of high school students – Year 11, Year 12 – unable to get through a high school exam without nicotine patches."
Mark Butler says stricter regulations on importing vapes will come into force from March 1.(ABC News: Che Chorley)
The minister said he planned to introduce laws to stop the sale and supply of non-prescription vapes and close loopholes that allowed vape stores to open.
He said vapes being sold would need to comply to new standards such as being plain-flavoured, have prescribed nicotine-levels and have pharmaceutical packaging.
"This is really designed to make sure to the extent there is a therapeutic pathway or therapeutic use for vapes, on prescription from your doctor or nurse practitioner or through your pharmacy," he said.
Further reforms will start from March 1, which includes a ban on importing refillable, non-therapeutic vapes as well as the personal importation of therapeutic vapes.
"From 1st of March, it will only be possible to import vapes with a permit from the Office of Drug Protection and those vapes will need to comply with new standards that are put in place by the Therapeutic Goods Administration," Mr Butler said.