Massive change in notorious night-life suburb

Tobacco/ Vape Shops Kings Cross
Tobacconists are taking over one notorious Sydney suburb. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

A former infamous night-life hotspot has reformed its reputation in recent years, but a new photo has locals concerned about a worrying trend.

Known as the club capital in the 2000s and early 2010s, Sydney’s Kings Cross is much quieter in 2023 but is now the place to go to stock up on tobacco products and vapes.

Crippled in the wake of both 2014 lockout laws and the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions, hospitality businesses in the area were forced to close up, leaving room for a new wave of retailers to take over the space.

Tobacconists occupy three retail storefronts on one corner of Kings Cross; another seven are just metres away.

Tobacco/ Vape Shops Kings Cross
Once renowned as Australia's premier night-life destination, Kings Cross in Sydney has now been transformed into a thriving hub for tobacco and vape retailers. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard
Aussies are taking up vaping despite legislation banning the devices. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Gaye Gerard

Despite government efforts to stop the importation of illegal vapes into the country, Aussies are still able to get their hands on the banned products.

Convenience stores around the country are known as the place to go to purchase them, but vape stores stocking reusable and refillable devices are growing more popular.

Tobacco/ Vape Shops Kings Cross
There are two TSG Tobacco Stations within metres of each other in the area. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard
Tobacco/ Vape Shops Kings Cross
There are 10 tobacconists in Kings Cross. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

What the locals think

There are two TSG Tobacco Stations in the area, surrounded by several other similar stores.

A woman who lives nearby said she had noticed a bunch more pop up over the past couple of months.

“I don‘t really know why there are this many in the one spot, it’s pretty strange. It would be nice to have more of a mix of stores around here.”

An employee at a fashion retailer in Kings Cross told NCA NewsWire she had seen a major increase in the amount of people vaping on the streets as the amount of vape stores in the area grows.

“There’s been quite a lot more stores in the area over the years,” she said.

“There never used to be this many. There were the more old-school convenience stores, but it seems now these vape stores are the next best thing.

“They seem very generic, there are a lot of them. I don’t like coming out to all of the smoke on the street.”

Man Using An Electric Cigarette
Businesses in the area don’t like walking out to the vape clouds on the street. Picture: Supplied

Blame the vaper, not the vape shop

However, the stores themselves aren’t a bother to all residents in the area.

One hotel worker said the tobacconists were just there to keep up with demand.

Josh, who works at the Mad Monkey hotel said Australians are vaping a lot more compared to their European counterparts.

“I’ve travelled all around Europe, and sure, people smoke, but almost every Aussie is getting around with a vape at the moment,” he said.

“There’s just something about Australia, everyone has one.

Tobacco/ Vape Shops Kings Cross
Some locals don’t understand why there are so many vape stores. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

While he thinks vaping itself is bad for people, he said he has no issue with the increase in vape stores in the area.

“I don’t have an issue with the stores,” he said.

“If people are going to buy one, they go in and buy one. It’s not up to the stores themselves.”

He said the majority of travellers are indulging the habit too.

“Absolutely, travellers are vaping too.”

Tobacco/ Vape Shops Kings Cross
Josh from the Mad Monkey said travellers are heavy vapers too. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

But aren’t they illegal?

Although disposable vapes are regulated and available for legal purchase in places like the UK and parts of Europe, Australia’s position to ban the devices for everyone except those with a prescription hasn’t wavered.

A Kings Cross resident said they’re used to seeing people with “IGET” devices, which contain unregulated ingredients and high volume of nicotine.

The vapes are accessible, however, through social media pages on Facebook, and through messaging apps like Snapchat.

IGET vapes photographed for sale on a social media page. Picture: Supplied
IGET vapes photographed for sale on a social media page. Picture: Supplied

In May, the Albanese government announced the illegal fruity devices would be outlawed, with legislation change due to cement the ban.

In June, six NSW children were hospitalised after suffering seizures and loss of consciousness from vaping.

At the time, a NSW Health spokesperson confirmed the illegal vapes were purchased online, through social media app Snapchat.

Tobacco/ Vape Shops Kings Cross
On one corner, there are three tobacconists stores within walking distance. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard

Current laws allow people with prescriptions to purchase disposable nicotine vapes, but only from a chemist.

“NSW Health is increasingly concerned about the harmful health effects associated with vapes and continues to remind the community of the dangers associated with vaping, particularly for young people,” the spokesperson said.

“Vaping places young people at risk of lifelong serious health issues, including long-lasting effects of exposing their developing brains to nicotine, as many vapes have been found to contain high levels of nicotine even when they are not labelled as such.”