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Australia Burns

Australia is providing a shocking vision of how things could be in the UK if it continues down a prohibitionist road for vaping and vape products with violence and firebombings

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Australia is providing a shocking vision of how things could be in the UK if Rishi Sunak’s administration continues down a prohibitionist road for vaping and vape products. The black market is reported to be soaring to unprecedented levels, misinformation and lies are being spread with hitherto unseen volume, and gang-related violence and firebombings are shaking the country to its core – all while having minimal impact on smoking rates.

According to the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction, “By law nicotine is restricted and classified as a 'dangerous poison' in Australia. If it is used for therapeutic purposes, i.e. quitting smoking, nicotine products have to be registered under the Therapeutic Goods Act (1989). There are ways to legally access nicotine e-liquid, all requiring a prescription from a registered Australian medical practitioner. Few vapers use these methods, and few Australian doctors will write the relevant prescriptions.

“Australia has a strict regulatory environment for vaping, with a complex mix of federal and state laws. There are harsh penalties for possessing or using nicotine e-liquid (which vary from state to state), including jail sentences of up to two years and fines of up to AU$45,000. So far, no vapers have been convicted, although the threat is clear. Non-nicotine e-cigarettes are classified as legal consumer products. A new law was passed in South Australia in March 2019 which covers e-cigarette devices (but not nicotine) which restricts sales based on age (18+), vaping in public areas, and the sale of e-cigarette products without a license.”

Last month, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation News service (its equivalent to the BBC) happily shared a story telling Australians that passive vaping is a hidden risk to the public.

Like passive or second-hand smoking, passive vaping takes place where a person inhales the aerosol or ‘vape’ breathed out by someone vaping nearby,” it said.

It repeated fictional ‘facts’ that second-hand vapour leads to “burning and dryness of the eyes, sore throat, cough, breathlessness and headaches”.

Then it happily told its audience that a Dr Raglan Maddox says vaping causes “decreases in impulse control”, “problems associated with learning and attention” and “declines in mood and mental health”.

Cancer Research UK states: “There is no good evidence that second-hand vapour from e-cigarettes is harmful.”

Dr Colin Mendelsohn reported that the state of Victoria's black market for vapes is now valued at between AU$550 million to $1 billion per year (up to half a £-billion). This situation is echoed across the rest of Australia as media outlets report that the black market is “booming”.

Dr Mendelsohn points out that none of this money will contribute tax revenue as all the profits go to organised crime networks.

Victorian MP David Limbrick said: “Since the Americans tried alcohol prohibition about 100 years ago and experienced widespread poisonings, violence and corruption of the justice and political system, we have learned precisely nothing. The only benefit Victorians will get is some new episodes of Underbelly, complete with firebombings, murders and drug dealers selling vapes to school kids.

“In my opinion, this is a public policy disaster for both public health and law and order. I fear that the vaping crackdown will lead to more people smoking. If that happens, I hope those responsible will resign.”

And ‘booming’ is the operative word now when it comes to the black market.

Fighting over territory, crime gangs began a wave of intimidation and firebombings last year. This year, Australia has seen 52 firebombings and three murders.

With Prime Minister Rishi Sunak proposing to restrict eliquid flavours to tobacco, mint, menthol and “fruit”, along with introducing a ban on disposables, the UK is turning its back on harm reduction and embracing policies that feed into black markets. How long will it be before we see the same levels of chaos and anarchy occurring in Australia?

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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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