Warrnambool's Vape Shop owner fears the federal government's vaping ban will push people back to smoking cigarettes.
Nathan Vail, 36, was a full-time smoker for 15 years until he revived his father after a serious heart attack caused in part by smoking.
"I quit smoking six years ago because I didn't want to end up down the same road as Dad," he said.
"I tried the nicotine (replacement therapy) tablets and they gave me a stomach ulcer, I tried the patches and they gave me a rash. I tried everything and nothing worked until I imported my own nicotine (to use in a vape) and I've been off the smokes ever since.
"I feel unreal. Vaping saved my life."
But from January 1, 2021, nicotine e-cigarettes and refills will be banned in Australia, with fines of up to $220,000 for those who don't comply.
That means that the sale of nicotine vaping products will be illegal, as well as importing them for personal use.
The ban was supposed to come into force on Wednesday but Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt made a last-minute decision to delay the ban until the beginning of next year.
Mr Vail said he'd heard from dozens of customers who feared they would now be pushed back to smoking cigarettes.
"One lady came in this week and she said her mother had dementia, she was 96 or something around there, and she lived in a home and often forgot how many smokes she was having," he said.
"She she would just sit there all day and chain smoke. So the daughter got her a vape and it got her off the smokes.
"Now she's terrified her mother will have to go back, which will cause greater harm."
Vaping being a safer alternative to cigarettes is widely contested in Australia.
Advocates and e-cigarette manufacturers and sellers frequently quote a UK study that revealed vaping was 95 per cent safer than smoking tobacco.
But Australia's Chief Medical Officer Brendan Murphy last year released a joint statement with his state and territory counterparts saying international evidence showed "a possible link between the use of e-cigarettes and lung disease" following a string of deaths in the United States.
The federal government's announcement means vapers will need a doctor's prescription to import liquid nicotine under the new proposal, which had the support of every major public health body, including the Cancer Council and the Royal Australian College of GPs.
Mr Vail said the majority of his customers were not first-time smokers and used vapes and imported nicotine to quit smoking.
"To me, it seems like the government is just trying to get their tax dollars back up," he said.
"I've seen stories saying the sales of smokes had gone down and then bang, they do this. It seems like a convenient time for them to get their taxes back up.
"I just don't understand it. If they're banning the importation of nicotine, shouldn't they just ban the sale of all nicotine products?"
Mr Vail said he also feared the ban would lead to "more people poisoning themselves on homemade nicotine".
"They'll start trying to make their own nicotine and that won't end well," he said.
"I think the government has failed here."
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