02 August 2022

RACGP slams cynical cash for vapes pharmacy scheme

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has today slammed Big Tobacco plans for a secret vaping incentive program.

It follows incredible reports that the world’s largest tobacco company Phillip Morris is offering pharmacists financial incentives to dispense its vaping product. Pharmacies will not only receive a $275 payment when they order the tobacco giant’s “VEEV” vaping product but also a $5 fee when they refer customers to a GP to obtain a prescription for a vaping product, a $10 fee for “educating” a new patient about the VEEV device, and even a “dispensing support payment” of $5 every time they dispense a new script of the vaping product.

The payments are outlined in a leaked invitation to chemists to participate in the “VEEV Pharmacy Program” run through the pharmacy IT solutions group PharmaPrograms.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price said that the scheme had the potential to ruin community trust in their local pharmacy.

“I urge all pharmacists to resist the lure of Big Tobacco cash and not take part in this diabolic scheme,” she said.

“I echo the comments of QUIT director Sarah White who said this cynical move could ruin the trust the community has in pharmacists. This is nothing short of appalling, what we essentially have here is a health organisation working hand in hand with a tobacco giant responsible for the deaths of millions and millions of people to incentivise pharmacists into pushing a harmful vaping product.

“This comes at a time when many young people in particular are embracing vaping and potentially taking up a lifelong nicotine habit that will be difficult to shake. This is one of the reasons why the RACGP has been so cautious in our approach to vaping from the outset. We have always been mindful that Big Tobacco are reaping huge profits from vaping products, and they will try any means necessary to attract new users, including payments to community pharmacists who are supposed to have the health and wellbeing of their customers front of mind.

“Tobacco companies are nothing short of inventive when it comes to attracting new nicotine users. I honestly never thought a scheme like this would be part of their plans but here we are. Once again, I urge pharmacists in the strongest possible terms to walk away from this scheme and for those at PharmaPrograms to take a good look at themselves and what sort of deals they are signing up to.”

The RACGP President said that the scheme spoke to a larger problem facing the pharmacy sector.

“This isn’t just about vaping, this type of scheme speaks to pharmacy financial interests coming first ahead of patient safety and wellbeing,” she said.

“There are some within the pharmacy profession who are keen to explore any avenue for improving their bottom line, whether it is prescribing antibiotics for urinary tract infections or diagnosing and prescribing drugs for a range of serious health conditions without any consultations with a GP. Now we have this, a scheme in which they are effectively paid to push a vaping product. I would hope most pharmacists recognise and honour their professional obligations to patients first and call out and condemn this behaviour.  

“I also don’t care for PharmaPrograms’ justification that financial support to pharmacists for buying stock and ‘educating’ patients is common in the industry. If that is the case - it shouldn’t be, particularly for harmful products such as this. Enough is enough, this unholy alliance between Big Tobacco and the pharmacy sector is a step in the wrong direction. I encourage the new federal Government to speak up against this scheme, which must be halted in its tracks.”

The college’s submission to the Government’s draft National Tobacco Strategy 2022-2030 (“the Strategy”) recommended the federal Government devise a robust Strategy featuring:

  • an ambitious target of zero uptake of tobacco use given the uptake of smoking in children and adolescents remains a considerable public health challenge

  • more clearly documented restrictions on tobacco lobbying to encompass all nicotine containing products and a recommendation that all political parties reject Big Tobacco donations and refrain from meetings with any tobacco lobbyists.

The RACGP is a strong advocate for smoking cessation and supports our members to undertake smoking cessation consultations. Our Supporting smoking cessation: A guide for health professionals guideline includes the latest recommendations and information on smoking cessation.

The college was selected as one of the recipients of the 2020 World No Tobacco Day awards for its valuable work including the release of new Smoking Cessation Guidelines 2020.

Media enquiries

Journalists and media outlets seeking comment and information from the RACGP can contact John Ronan, Ally Francis and Stuart Winthrope via: