Over 40 leading experts issue warning over new vaping laws

In an open letter to the Hon Mark Butler, 45 leading tobacco control and addiction experts have warned of the consequences of the new vaping laws.

Penned by Dr Colin Mendelsohn, Founding Chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, and co-signed by 44 other leading tobacco treatment, public health, and addiction experts from Australia and New Zealand, the letter asks Butler to reconsider his proposal to further restrict access to nicotine vaping products in Australia.

They warned, that in their view, this approach would have serious and harmful unintended consequences for public health.

“We need to recognise that overly restrictive policies will have counterproductive results. The current prescription-only model has been disastrous proof of this problem. Implementing more severe restrictions on vaping products will only spur the black market and reduce smoking quit rates.

“We urge lawmakers to urgently step in and place a stop to the proposed crackdown and listen to the expert advice from tobacco control and addiction experts including Australian National Advisory Council on Alcohol and Other Drugs (ANACAD) on this crucial issue,” said Dr Mendelsohn.

In emails obtained by the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age under the Freedom of Information Act, ANACAD voiced its concerns over the Government’s current vaping policy.

The Advisory Council’s view is that further bans will make the black market worse and that sensible, balanced regulation is the way forward.

In the letter, the experts listed the likely outcomes of the proposed changes to be that:

  • The black-market will continue to import and supply unregulated and potentially unsafe nicotine vaping products to adults and young people.
  • People who smoke will have greater difficulty legally accessing nicotine for vaping, a far safer alternative.
  • Some former smokers who currently vape will return to smoking.
  • Uptake of the prescription model will continue to be low.
  • Smoking rates will decline more slowly.
  • Increased smoking-related death and disease will result.
  • The model will ultimately fail.

The letter stated their belief that a well-designed adult consumer regulatory model is most likely to achieve the two goals all parties seek, i.e., making vaping products readily available as a quitting aid for adults who smoke and minimising access by young people.

“While measures to protect non-smoking youth are essential, excessive regulation that makes vaping less accessible, less appealing, more expensive or less effective perpetuates adult smoking and increases smoking-related death and illness,” stated the letter.

They urged Butler to reconsider the totality of the scientific evidence and reassess the proposed changes.

“We believe the proposed policy is likely to have an overall negative effect on smoking rates and thus on population health as well as Medicare and health-care costs in Australia.”

The experts clarified that none of them have links to tobacco or e-cigarette companies.

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