Harm Reduction Door Slammed Shut In Australia

Posted 5th April 2017 by Dave Cross
The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) reviewed its position on electronic cigarettes following submissions from 109 interested parties. In coming to a final decision it listened to 87 arguments in favour of using vaping as a means to harm reduction, the remaining 22 submissions argued against any relaxation of the proposals.

Perhaps it should come as no surprise that the TGA opted to listen to the minority opinion, and opted to continue with its plans to maintain a block on vaping.

The New Nicotine Alliance Australia’s Attila Danko made people laugh in 2015, as he described the absurd situation existing in his home country - the land of ecig prohibition: “Did you know, that in Australia, the possession of liquid nicotine/eliquid with nicotine in it for use in e-cigarettes, is punishable with the same penalties that apply to the possession of heroin?”

According to the TGA, the risks of nicotine poisoning are too great for vaping to be tolerated. Unfortunately for them, the argument was destroyed by submissions from experts pointing out that nicotine is emetic – it induces vomiting if taken orally. Also, it was pointed out that the risks from skin contact are minimal and the size of risk is unsupported by evidence.

The TGA also harped on about renormalisation and a gateway effect to smoking (again, devoid of data to support this stance). Ricardo Polosa commented: “Banning e-cigarettes with nicotine simply drives the market underground. The resulting unregulated market increases the risks of harm for users. Ten years of overseas experience has found the claims of e-cigarette opponents are overstated. There is no reliable evidence e-cigarettes are acting as a gateway to smoking for children, or that they are renormalising smoking behavior.”

Professor Mendelsohn greeted the announcement: “This runs against the growing evidence showing ‘vaping’ to be far less harmful to users and bystanders than deadly tobacco smoke. Overseas experience and research shows e-cigarettes with low concentrations of nicotine can play an invaluable role as a quitting aid or long-term safer alternative to smoking. To ban them without giving due weight to that evidence is poor science and misguided, short-sighted policy.”

Last week, Imperial College London’s David Nutt said the TGA’s position is “perplexing and disturbing. No explanation for this inexplicable preferential treatment for the cigarette supply chain is offered, and, in our view, no justification is possible. Millions of Europeans report that they have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Why do authorities in Australia wish to deny that option to Australians?”

The full breakdown of the TGA’s final decisions can be read here. It makes for grim reading in the same week that New Zealand announce that ecigs will become legal.


 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, dog walker