Australia has announced it will ban “recreational vaping”. Health Minister Mark Butler has stated, “We will not stand by and allow vaping to create another generation of nicotine addicts.” More of the usual sophistry from someone who should be aware of the differences between nicotine and smoking.
Let’s explore the ban and what it means for Australian vapers.
The Australian government has announced that it will ban “recreational vaping”. While this is a new announcement by health minister Mark Butler, since 2021, the government has restricted vaping use to people with a prescription.
Some citizens tried to work around the restrictions by exporting vapes from abroad. However, this pathway to harm reduction will be blocked by these measures.
According to reports, the 2021 action led to unregulated non-nicotine vapes being sold in shops, petrol stations, and convenience stores. However, some of these products allegedly contained nicotine. As a result, the government has announced a crackdown on non-nicotine vapes.
Further measures announced included tighter restrictions on prescription e-cigarette packaging and flavours and a ban on single-use or disposable vapes.
It’s hard to believe that a 15-year veteran Health minister:
A) doesn’t know the difference between smoking and nicotine
B) doesn’t have advisors who could tell him the difference.
Some press release quotes might help us understand his position better.
He stated, “Vaping is creating a whole new generation of nicotine dependency in our community. It poses a major threat to Australia’s success in tobacco control.”
And how does Butler believe vaping poses a major threat? “Young people who vape are three times as likely to take up smoking.” Let’s explore that claim.
Now, these oft-cited figures are from a 2017 study called Association Between Initial Use of e-Cigarettes and Subsequent Cigarette Smoking Among Adolescents and Young Adults: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis.
One of the authors of that study “reported being a paid consultant in litigation against the tobacco industry”. Of course, that alone is not enough to dismiss the investigation.
However, the paper fails to establish that vaping is the cause of the small number of people who later take up smoking. Some personalities are open to trying new things. Curiosity about cigarettes precedes the invention of the vape.
More damningly, both Butler and the study fail to answer the critical question that would test their assumption. If vaping is a gateway to smoking, why has smoking prevalence gone down as e-cigarette use has risen?
Perhaps the most laughable part of the press release is Butler’s statement that “Australia needs to reclaim its position as a world leader on tobacco control.”
As recent studies have shown, Australia’s smoking rate is declining slower than New Zealand and other countries with a relaxed attitude to tobacco harm-reduction products. If anything, Australia’s policies are in danger of making the country a laughing stock on the world stage.
Australian politicians have failed to connect the dots between their country’s high smoking prevalence rates and its restrictive policies against harm-reduction products.
Instead of looking towards its neighbours in New Zealand, the government has allowed its anti-smoking policies to be influenced by fear-mongering, small-mindedness, and anti-science rhetoric.
As usual, it’s the citizens who will have to pick up the tab for misguided policy. Voters in Australia should unite and reject these draconian health measures and demand an evidence-focused approach.