Australian smokers and vapers can only obtain alternative nicotine-containing products like e-liquid through a medical prescription. We have previously detailed how this is a drawn out and ridiculously complex process, placing obstacles in the way of people who wish to continue to use nicotine products but reduce their harm exposure.
Meanwhile, cigarettes are legal, on sale, and available everywhere.
Politicians and tobacco controllers were warned that by making access to vapes harder they would only succeed in developing a black market and criminalise innocent members of the public. They didn’t listen.
In December, the Department of Health’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) warned that, “counterfeit nicotine vaping products were being advertised and sold online. As the TGA noted, because they had elected to ignore the success experience in the United Kingdom, they now had little control over such products, which meant they could “pose a serious threat to consumer health.”
Last week, The Sydney Morning Herald revealed that in just one state (New South Wales) 100,000 products had been seized, bearing a value of $2 million. Extrapolating this figure across the entire country would give a figure in excess of $6 million – and this would just represent the items that could be confiscated, not the full size of the illicit market tobacco controllers have created.
Spurning the UK’s version of a balanced, evidenced, and organised approach, Australia has completely lost control.
The Sydney Morning Herald cites a public health officer saying that there is now a growing problem with the number of young people vaping. Compare this with the evidence from England, where ASH states: “While some young people experiment with e-cigarettes, particularly those who have tried smoking, regular use remains low.”
Rather than look at reasonable evidence, Australia is listening to doctors speculating. Dr Chan told the paper: “We do not yet understand enough about what you are doing to your body when you vape.”
The UK’s Royal College of Physicians, Cancer Research UK, NHS, Royal College of GPs, Royal College of Nursing, Action on Smoking and Health, and many other public health bodies are quite unambiguous that we do know enough about vaping to state that it is at least 95% safer than smoking and that making it easy for smokers to switch to vaping produces benefits for the individuals and wider society.
While Australia’s politicians and tobacco controllers continue to wage their blinkered and anachronistic war on tobacco harm reduction, people are losing their lives – families are losing loved ones.