The first person to be convicted of selling e-cigarette devices in Australia is crowdsourcing funds for an appeal against the Supreme Court ruling in Western Australia.
Vince van Heerden, trading under the name HeavenlyVapours, has so far raised $27,940 of the estimated $50,000 minimum he needs to run an appeal against the conviction under Western Australia’s Tobacco Products Control Act 2006, which makes it unlawful to sell products which resemble a cigarette.
He was fined for selling $1,750 last month for selling e-cigarettes, which deliver nicotine in the form of a vapour. His costs total $14,000.
“I am also in discussions with some vendors and industry groups to gain some financial support,” he says.
“This is not over yet, I still have some gas in the tank and am going to try my hardest to get this over the line.”
He says he has legal advice that there’s a good case to appeal but that this will be expensive.
The WA court decision is the first in Australia to determine that e-cigarettes look like a cigarette, are shaped like a cigarette and the steam or vapour looks like smoke, and therefore are in breach of the law.
Tobacco control laws in other states including NSW, Queensland and South Australia all contain similar provisions which create an offence for selling or which permit the banning (Victoria) products which resemble a tobacco product.
In Tasmania and the ACT, the prohibition on sale of products which resemble a smoking or tobacco product applies only to toys or confectionery. In the Northern Territory, the prohibition on sale of products resembling tobacco products only applies if the product is designed or marketed for by children.
The Perth case has been going since 2011 when the WA Health Department arrived at Van Heerden’s home, which he was using to run his business HeavenlyVapours, with a search warrant and three black SUVs.
“My goal was to start a small business and focus on high quality control, so vapers didn’t have to take risks when buying their e-cigarettes / Personal Vapourisers (PV) as to whether they would work,” he says.
Van Heerden’s gofundme page has a target of $50,000 but he says his lawyers have told him he would need at least $100,000 if he was to lose an appeal because he would have to pay the state Health Department’s costs.
E-cigarettes are a huge industry in the US and in Europe.
Supporters say e-cigarettes are a good tool to help smokers quit. Some authorities have expressed concern over the use of e-cigarettes and have called for more studies to assess the health impacts.
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