Canberra vaping stores have welcomed moves by the federal government to delay a ban on importing liquid nicotine.
The ban was set to come into effect on July 1 but has since been pushed back by Health Minister Greg Hunt to January 1, following opposition to the move by backbench MPs and pro-vaping organisations.
While e-cigarettes can be purchased legally in Australia, liquid nicotine to be used in the cigarettes cannot be sold legally in states and territories, including the ACT.
Liquids that are used in e-cigarettes that do not contain nicotine are able to be sold legally in Australia.
Vapers who wanted to smoke liquid nicotine were forced to import the product, however, the ban proposed by the Therapeutic Goods Administration would have imposed a $20,000 fine on those who brought it into the country.
A decision on delaying the ban until the start of next year was made late on Friday, with Mr Hunt saying the administration would conduct a formal review and consultation.
People started to panic buy [liquid nicotine]. It became the new toilet paper.Shoozitech director Chris Franzi
Chris Franzi, the director of Canberra vaping store Shoozitech, said the original decision to ban the import was short-sighted.
"The biggest win was the government accepting that vaping is not something that will go away," Mr Franzi said.
"Everyone banded together and pushed the government on this and the government acted accordingly, so it was a good outcome."
Mr Franzi said up to 70 per cent of customers at his two stores use nicotine in their e-cigarettes.
In the days before the ban was set to come into effect on July 1, he said many had resorted to stockpiling liquid nicotine from overseas.
"The ban completely caught people off guard and raised people's anxiety," he said.
"People started to panic buy. It became the new toilet paper and people were hoarding it because they didn't know when they were able to access it again."
The ban was delayed six months after more than 20 Coalition MPs signed a letter criticising the decision and warned it could drive vapers back to smoking cigarettes.
Those who vape would have only been able to access liquid nicotine if it had been prescribed by a doctor as an aid to stop smoking under the proposed ban.
In their reasons for the ban, a spokesman for the Therapeutic Goods Administration said Australian youth were at risk of taking up smoking as a result of e-cigarettes after a 78 per cent increase in US school students vaping in the past 12 months.
The number of liquid nicotine poisonings had almost doubled in Australia, rising from 21 in 2018 to 41 in 2019.
In the ACT, there were fewer than five incidents of liquid nicotine poisoning last year.
"This measure would further strengthen Australia's precautionary approach to e-cigarettes, by prohibiting the importation of nicotine for use in e-cigarettes unless exempt under specific circumstances," a spokesman for the administration said.
ACT Health said it supported the proposed ban on liquid nicotine due to public health concerns.
"Nicotine e-cigarettes are already banned in every Australian state and territory," an ACT Health spokesman said.
"While the risk of nicotine poisoning is an important consideration, in the ACT a primary concern is the protection of adolescents and young people."
Australian Medical Association ACT president Dr Antonio Di Dio said the federal government had made the right call in advocating for a ban on liquid nicotine.
"To describe vaping as some kind of benevolent alternative to cigarette smoking is completely irresponsible," Dr Di Dio said.
"I'm very supportive of there being no vaping with the exception of small groups of people who use it as an alternative to smoking as a short-term step to not smoking at all."
Mr Franzi said he hoped upcoming consultation on the proposed ban would be constructive, so the same events in the lead up to the original ban date wouldn't be repeated in January.
"What we don't want to see is for six months to go by and having nothing done and having to do all of this all over again," he said.