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Australian Poisoning Study

A paper on the calls to Australian poison centres has prompted a swift call for legislative common sense from the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association

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A study looking at eliquid-related calls to Australian Poisons Information Centres (APIC) confirms that the overwhelming majority are “mild and self-limiting”. The Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) were quick to highlight the findings in order to allay fears and counter anti-vape propaganda, calling for a change in how nicotine is legislated.

“Exposures to e-cigarettes and their refills: calls to Australian Poisons Information Centres” by Wylie et al was published in the Medical Journal of Australia last month. The report begins by stating the rate of vaping in Australia and noting, “e-cigarettes have been recommended by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians as safe smoking cessation tools.”

There were 202 calls to the centres for e-cigarette and e-liquid exposure over an 8-year period from 2009-2016. Despite increasing over the time period, the calls still only represent 0.015% of all calls received.

The team pointed out that the current approach to vaping in Australia has led to a situation where “the safety of these products for users and the risks for members of their households have not been established.”

They highlight: “Imported products may not conform to Australian standards, including having child-resistant closures and appropriate labelling, and refill bottles containing highly concentrated nicotine solutions can be purchased online.”

Although “the numbers of calls about e-cigarette exposures increased considerably across the study period,” the team discovered “most patients had only mild symptoms at the time of the call to the APIC.”

Colin Mendelsohn, writing on behalf of ATHRA, said: “A report from the Australian Poisons Centres has confirmed that accidental ingestion of nicotine e-liquid is extremely rare and is usually mild and self-limiting. The findings support the case for legalising and regulating nicotine for vaping as a safer alternative to smoking.”

Colin went on to add: “One third of the calls were for children (38%). There were 12 cases of deliberate self-administration by adults for self-harm. Twelve had moderate symptoms, usually vomiting and sedation. There were no serious reactions or deaths reported.”

“Nicotine poses no risk to vapers if used in the standard doses as intended.”

“Nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 'dangerous poison' in Australia, the same category as arsenic and strychnine and it is illegal to possess or use it without a prescription. Clearly this classification is inappropriate. Nicotine should be exempted from the Poisons Standard to reflect its real risk.”

Making yet another call for common sense, Colin states: “Bans prevent us from having any control over the quality and safety of nicotine products and packaging. Legalising and regulating nicotine e-liquid will reduce the risk.”



Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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