Liber Pharmaceuticals

Campaign OBELIA seizes more than 35 tonnes of illegal vapes worth an estimated $11 million

Minister for Health and Aged Care, Mark Butler, yesterday provided an update on Campaign Obelia, a joint enforcement initiative executed by the Australian Border Force (ABF) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) in October 2023.

Obelia represents the first stage of the Government’s enforcement efforts to address the illicit vaping market in Australia, following the Minister’s announcement of a $270 million enforcement and awareness package as part of the 2023 Budget.

Obelia seized more than 35 tonnes of vaping products in October, comprising 376,000 illegal vapes with a street value of more than $11 million.

Obelia’s efforts took place notwithstanding the Government has not yet implemented legislation to include all non-therapeutic vaping products on the Prohibited Import List (PIL). When the PIL is updated to prohibit vaping products, only nicotine vaping products (NVPs) intended for therapeutic use under prescription from pharmacies will be permitted for importation.

Mr Butler confirmed that:

we will put in that import control regulation in place by the end of the year”.

In terms of the broader strategy, Mr Butler went on to say that:

“what we want to do is make sure that there is a regulation in place to stop the supply of these things coming in in the first place from overseas, then we need to work with states to have a comprehensive regulatory framework that they will also be able to enforce as state authorities and we can do that through a single piece of legislation at a Commonwealth level. And we intend to do that over the course of next year.”

Current penalties for the illegal importation or supply of unapproved therapeutic goods are up to five years imprisonment and/or a financial penalty of up to $1.25 million.

Liber believes that this represents an essential first step in a broader suite of measures aimed at closing the illicit vaping market while ensuring that there is a meaningful pathway for nicotine-dependent vapers and long-term smokers to have continued access under medical supervision to NVPs where they may aid appropriate patients to achieve long term smoking cessation.

With 2.8 million smokers and more than an estimated 1.5 million illicit vapers, these measures are likely to fundamentally increase the number of patients seeking guidance and assessment for whether NVPs may be an appropriate smoking cessation intervention for them.

Healthcare professionals

Are you ready to consider whether NVPs may be an appropriate intervention for your patients?

More from Liber News

Prescribing doctors

Register now as an Authorised Prescriber

Healthcare professionals

Learn about NVPs in a medical framework


Speak with a GP about quitting smoking

Nicotine Vaping Pharmacies

Find your nearest stockist

Over 1,000 community pharmacies across Australia currently hold nicotine vaping products in-store.