“A little over one percent of those who are able to write nicotine scripts do so. And less than one third of those who are authorised prescribers are publicly available for adult smokers who wish to switch to nicotine vaping,” wrote CAPHRA in its submission on Australia’s failing medicalisation model towards nicotine vaping.
CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) has submitted to Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on a consultation document exploring options for legal access to e-cigarettes and nicotine.
Australia remains the only Western democracy that requires a nicotine prescription to vape. Public consultation on Australia’s ‘Proposed reforms to the regulation of nicotine vaping products’ opened on 30 November and closes on 16 January 2023.
“Australian smoking rates have remained stubbornly flat in the last decade, especially among the most vulnerable and disadvantaged communities. It’s well overdue for restricted retail access to vaping – one of the most effective methods used by smokers to quit cigarettes around the world,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA.
CAPHRA wrote: ‘Vaping and harm reduced products are currently used by several countries including the European Union, UK, NZ and Canada to influence a rapid acceleration on the reduction of the current smoking prevalence in these countries.’
Ms Loucas says the fact that the product that is most deadly to the population – combustible tobacco – remains readily available at any general retailer is a mockery of public health.
‘Australia needs to decide if their policy decisions around nicotine are about science, evidence and facts to promote and maintain the health of her people, or if they instead are choosing money over health, in terms of tobacco excise and other funds that they may receive for pursuing a draconian policy that has already shown itself to be a failure,’ wrote CAPHRA.
“Australians politicians and officials don’t like hearing this but if they want to see success they need to look no further than across the Tasman. New Zealand has positively adopted a Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) strategy that has seen their overall smoking rate halve in the past decade with Smokefree 2025 – where five percent or fewer smoke regularly – now in their sights,” says Ms Loucas.
Likewise, CAPHRA wrote that if youth access is a genuine concern for Australia’s decisionmakers, then the only way to address it is to regulate appropriately, with harsh fines and licence revocations for retailers who fail to abide by the law. New Zealand’s 2020 vaping legislation and subsequent regulations have achieved just that.
“New Zealand has a consumer framework that works. In fact, over 150,000 Kiwis have switched off deadly combustibles and onto safer nicotine products in the past year alone,” says Ms Loucas.
CAPHRA said it strongly believed a regulated consumer market would give Australia the control necessary in product quality and quantity of retailers in the community. It would also allow for the products to be ‘adult only’ – no different than alcohol and combustible cigarettes.
It points out that Australia’s current situation sees the prevalence of unregulated black-market products that have no regulatory controls for either contents or access to those under the age of 18.
“Our submission on behalf of our nine member organisations takes issue with the consultation document’s promotion of the ‘gateway theory’. Despite the document’s claims that there is evidence that vaping leads to smoking in adolescents, the gateway theory has been disproven and discredited by many international studies. Vaping is an offramp to smoking, not an onramp,” says Ms Loucas.