Victoria’s vaping black market could be worth $500 million, according to a report by the state parliamentary budget office, which was released as the government attempts stamp out the violence around illegal vape sales.
The agency was asked to calculate the current value of the illegal market as the state looks to consider a licensing system to allow retailers to sell prescription vapes. Victoria is currently the only Australian state without a vape licensing scheme or plans to introduce one.
It found the market was worth between $306.2 million to $503 million, and estimated there were about 461,000 vape users, with 343,000 of these using daily or weekly.
Regular users can spend as much as $1,320 a year, with less frequent users spending $300-$400.
Since the Federal Government’s ban of disposable vapes at the start of the year, the black market has become increasingly violent, with stores being firebombed and ram raided. It has also been reported that criminal groups have demanded regular payments from shop owners.
Libertarian Party MP David Limbrick, who requested the costs from the budget office, said the government had destroyed a “legitimate industry”.
“Since the Americans tried alcohol prohibition about 100 years ago and experienced widespread poisonings, violence and corruption of the justice and political system, we have learned precisely nothing,” he said.
“The only benefit Victorians will get is some new episodes of Underbelly, complete with firebombings, murders and drug dealers selling vapes to school kids.”
He said he feared the crackdown would lead to more people smoking, and called the bans a “public policy disaster for both public health and law and order”.
Although it’s not yet fully clear how a vaping licensing system would work in the state, calls for it say it would reduce the black market by forcing the registration of sellers and allow authorities to more easily locate those operating illegally.