05 August 2022

RACGP welcomes suspension of cash for vapes pharmacy scheme

The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has welcomed news that a planned cash for vapes scheme will be halted in its tracks.

It comes following reports that IT platform PharmaPrograms has paused the controversial program, which would have led to pharmacists receiving $275 from tobacco giant Philip Morris when they order its VEEV vapes. Pharmacists would also have received a $5 fee when they referred 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.

Phillip Morris Limited has issued a rare statement criticising the RACGP, the Pharmaceutical Society of Australia and the Australian Medical Association saying it is “disappointing” these bodies are criticising the scheme given they “participated in the establishment of the prescription [nicotine vaping products] model”.

RACGP President Adj. Professor Karen Price welcomed the backdown.

“This is a David and Goliath win for ethical healthcare, and common sense,” she said.

“I hope that this diabolic scheme is not just postponed but put to rest and never resuscitated. It has the potential to undermine community trust in pharmacy and we must be always wary of any attempts by Big Tobacco to attract new, life-long users because they are nothing short of creative when it comes to fresh ideas.

“To all people vaping or using other nicotine products, I encourage you to have a chat to your GP about quitting nicotine. We are here to help, and I can tell you that you will almost instantly feel so much better and put yourself on a new, healthier path.

“Phillip Morris Limited’s statement is disappointing but hardly surprising. The Royal Australian College of GPs is supportive of the prescription model for nicotine vaping products because it is consistent with our stance that vaping products should only be used as a second-line smoking cessation tool in consultation with a GP.”

RACGP Vice President Dr Bruce Willett also responded to Phillip Morris Limited’s statement.

“Supporting a prescription model for vaping products is one thing but offering financial incentives to pharmacists to not only stock a vaping product but also refer customers to a GP and ‘educate’ people about the device is something else entirely,” he said.

“Once again, the college urges all pharmacists to resist the lure of Big Tobacco cash and not take part in this diabolic scheme. PML became the world’s largest tobacco company because it is extremely successful at selling tobacco products. Companies like PML will continue to find new and inventive ways of attracting new users and we must continue to carefully monitor how they go about doing so.”

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.


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