Australia’s New Labor-Led Government Must Change Anti-Vaping Stance

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) urges the new Australian government to end the local vape-related hysteria which has dominated recent years.

As of October 1st, vapers in Australia are only able to purchase vaping products from pharmacies via prescription. While retailers in neighbouring New Zealand and most other countries are able to responsibly sell nicotine products over the counter, anyone caught violating Australia’s harsh regulations will face steep fines, and in some cases even imprisonment.

Meanwhile, the National Drug Strategy Household Survey has recently reported that while over 2.5 million Australians still smoke, the number of vapers was 240,000 in 2016 and 520,000 in 2019. If the number of Australians vaping has been increasing at this rate, as many as 600,000 may be vaping now.

CAPHRA highlights that the local hard-line anti-vaping approach is increasingly out of step with other Asia Pacific countries, and the new government and next Health Minister must be in support of Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) approaches, including the regulated availability of safer alternatives for smokers. “We are hopeful the nearly decade long Liberal-led Government’s open warfare on safer nicotine products will end under says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA.

“Former Health Minister Greg Hunt and his Cabinet colleagues oversaw a failed ‘quit or die’ approach on tobacco control. Subsequently, Australia’s overall smoking rate has budged little while comparative countries have enjoyed considerable success. To save thousands of Australian lives every year, the new government must urgently adopt a totally different strategy,” said Loucas.

Australia’s smoking rates have reached a plateau
A recent release by CAPHRA said that Australian THR expert Dr Colin Mendelsohn recently described Australia’s smoking cessation strategy of the last decade as an ‘embarrassing failure’, and numbers confirm this. A target of 10% adult daily smoking was set for 2018, but only 13.8% was achieved, and smoking rates have reached a plateau.

Similarly, Dr. Alexander David Wodak, a known Australian advocate of harm reduction with regards to drugs, has long been expressing the need of taking the same approach with regards to smoking. In a recent interview on ABC, Wodak explained how Australia is adopting the wrong approach towards nicotine safer alternatives, leading it to fall behind other countries with regards to smoking rates, rather than making progress.

One of the strong points he made is that “most smokers are low income,” and therefore amongst other things, safer nicotine alternatives should be priced relatively to their risks in order to encourage smokers to migrate to them.