Forty Experts Urge Australian Health Minister to Rethink Proposed Vape Restrictions

In response to the recent vape restrictions proposed by Australian Health Minister Mark Butler, forty two tobacco control and addiction experts from Australia and New Zealand, have written to the MP urging him to rethink setting in place more of what is already failing. 

Completely ignoring countless peer reviewed studies, opinions by smoking cessation experts, the available science on tobacco harm reduction, and the fact that the current harsh vape laws are a complete failure, Australian regulators have recently announced further restrictions on vaping products, making them even more inaccessible to adult smokers wishing to use them to quit cigarettes.

The Head of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Associate Professor John Skerrit himself, has recently admitted that “the current regime doesn’t seem effective at all” yet refused to take responsibility for it: “we should be proud of what we have done on vaping.”

In their letter to Butler, forty two experts, amongst whom renowned tobacco treatment expert Dr. Colin Mendelsohn and Dr. Wayne Wodak, an Emeritus Consultant at a Drug and Alcohol Service, have repeated points that not only have they been highlighting for years, but also facts that have been proven by science.

In a nutshell, they reiterated that further restrictions will keep on feeding an already thriving black market, making potentially unsafe products available for minors, while adult smokers will have a tougher time trying to get access to the safer alternatives which are already hard to obtain via legal channels. This will lead to former smokers reverting back to smoking. Hence smoking rates will decline more slowly than they could, resulting in more smoke-related death and diseases which could be a avoided.

The letter urges Butler to consider the available science on vaping products and explains that a well designed regulatory model which would prevent access to minors while making the products accessible to adult smokers, would be ideal.

Discussing the proposed measures on his blog page, Dr. Mendelsohn added that in fact the dangers of teen vaping are being greatly exaggerated, as studies have shown that actually vape uptake by non-smoking youth is very low. Among these, vaping tends to be experimental and therefore occasional and short term.

Local policy is informed by flawed studies
Moreover, added Mendelsohn, the letter to Butler draws his attention to two flawed Australian reports which are unfortunately being used to inform policy. “The reports by the National Health and Medical Research Centre (NHMRC) and the Banks report from Australian National University have been critiqued in peer-reviewed journals and have been demonstrated to contain serious scientific errors, misinformation and bias. In our view, the reports are not fit for purpose to guide Australian policy.”

The experts concluded by saying that in their opinion the proposed further restrictions are likely to have an overall negative effect on smoking rates and therefore on public health. This would in turn also have negative effects on Medicare and health-care costs in Australia.