“This latest government document on vaping makes outrageously false claims and will only cost more Australian smokers their lives,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Co-ordinator of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates).
Her comments follow the release of the 2022 CEO Statement on Electronic Cigarettes by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC).
“Ridiculously, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer considers vaping the next biggest health issue after COVID-19. Has he ever heard of smoking which kills over 20,000 Australians every year? This 18-page document is a complete joke. It is full of statements that can be easily debunked by international science and human evidence the world over,” says Ms Loucas.
The NHMRC statement includes false claims that vaping is not an effective quit-smoking tool, but a gateway to smoking with most vapers becoming dual users. Vaping, it says, also increases the risk of smoking relapse. Health impacts, poisoning and explosion risks are heavily exaggerated, while references to toxins and potential harms are made without a fair comparison to smoking.
“We held huge hope that the new Labor Government might take a more progressive approach to safer nicotine products. The previous Liberal Government spent nearly a decade making it harder for Australian smokers to quit by effectively banning the best smoking cessation tool. Sadly, it appears nothing is going to change, meaning Australia’s stubborn smoking rate won’t be budging anytime soon,” says Ms Loucas.
CAPHRA says Australia’s hard-line anti-vaping approach is increasing out of step with other Asia Pacific countries, with the Philippines, Malaysia and Thailand set to lift their failed vaping bans. What’s more, New Zealand, across the Tasman, is already operating under a regulatory framework that has seen smoking rates decline.
“If Australia’s Minister of Health, Mark Butler, is serious about reducing Australia’s overall smoking rate to below 10%, he needs to talk with New Zealand’s Minister of Health, Andrew Little, who’s on track to reach smokefree – which is 5% or less smoking. Without adopting a Tobacco Harm Reduction(THR) approach, as New Zealand has, Australia does not have a hope in hell at even getting close to smokefree,” she says.
It is illegal to sell, supply or possess nicotine vaping products, with Australia the only Western democracy that requires a nicotine prescription to vape. Alarmingly, 2.3 million Australians continue to smoke deadly cigarettes.
Last year Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) expanded its prescription-only model with customs clamping down at the border on the likes of personal imports of nicotine vaping liquids from overseas websites.
CAPHRA says that nearly 70 countries have adopted regulatory frameworks on safer nicotine products, with all reporting dramatic declines in smoking prevalence. The regional THR advocacy group also notes that Public Health England stands resolutely behind the finding that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes.
The NHMRC statement has been supported by chief health officers from all states and territories and is expected to inform future public health advice and policy decisions.
“This egregious document is not worth the paper it’s written on, yet it’s now the bible for public health guidance in and around Australia. Yes, it remains the lucky country but only if you’re not trying to give up smoking. For those desperate to kick the cancer sticks, their luck’s nearly completely run out,”says Nancy Loucas.