Australian Committee Submission

Posted 13th November 2020 by Dave Cross
Expert Clive Bates has submitted a document to the Australian Senate Select Committee on Tobacco Harm Reduction. In it he details the evidence on vaping and calls for the government to conduct a complete overhaul of the approach to tobacco harm reduction in Australia.

Clive is a UK-based consultant in sustainability, a former senior civil servant in Tony Blair’s government, and a former director of Action on Smoking and Health, the UK’s main anti-smoking organisation.

He writes: “The government, regulators and public health establishment are overly focussed on trivial or implausible risks, while downplaying or ignoring the very considerable public health opportunities and manageable risks. Vaping and other tobacco harm reduction options are beneficially disruptive to the tobacco and nicotine market, but they are also disruptive to organisations and individuals strongly vested in Australia’s model of tobacco control.”

He describes the evidence as being “strong and accumulating”, and points out that this is far from the first time he’s written to the Australian government about it all; a submission in 2015, a follow up the next year, four in 2017, and a further paper last year.

In words that will send Simon Chapman AO (pro-am online troll) and Michael Daube (President of the Australian Council on Smoking and Health) scurrying to their keyboards in a state of apoplexy, Bates says, “the problem is not evidence, but institutional bias and inertia.”

He points out that harm reduction policies are adopted for drugs, alcohol and HIV, and implores the government to do the same for vaping because: “The evidence for radically reduced risk comes from the basic physical and chemical processes involved, the toxicology of emissions, exposure studies (the presence of toxicants in saliva, blood and urine) and the lack of findings or material harms despite a concerted effort to find, fabricate or exaggerate risks by activists in the research community.”


Clive addresses the subject of risk:

  • Absolute risks are also very low
  • We know enough to be reassured about long term risk
  • Evidence from a range of sources shows reduced risk products substitute for smoking and reduce population-level harms

Then, Clive takes a swing at Australia’s ridiculous attempts to ban the import of nicotine while allowing tobacco products to remain on sale: ‘Poisons legislation means a highly convoluted process is required to access much safer smokefree nicotine products than cigarettes or it is made impossible. An exemption for nicotine “prepared and packed for smoking’ means cigarettes are available everywhere but a complicated prescription and international import procedure is required for vaping products. Lawful access to smokeless or heated tobacco products is not possible at all. It is impossible to defend this.”

The extensive document goes on to argue that tobacco harm reduction shouldn’t be seen as in opposition to tobacco control, and that policies which attack it ends up impacting those with poor socio-economic status, minority status, or other forms of disadvantage.

This is another fine example of coherent, evidenced argument from Clive Bates and well worth a read.


  • Senate Select Committee on Tobacco Harm Reduction Public Submission, Clive Bates – [link]
  • The facts about vaping. 15 key questions answered by Clive Bates”, ATHRA – [link]

Image by Patty Jansen from Pixabay

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