Australia has taken a strong prohibitionist line of vaping to date, effectively banning vape sales and imports and only allowing e-liquid by prescription from a doctor. It has justified this with bogus research and flawed position statements from its public health bodies. Finally, the University of Queensland has published a balanced overview of electronic cigarettes and vaping – pointing to a brighter future and greater understanding around the world.
Compared to the United Kingdom, Australia’s approach to tobacco harm reduction has resulted in failure. Teen and adult smoking rates have failed to fall and, rather than acknowledge it was their approach to vaping that played a part, public health experts blamed vaping for glamourising smoking.
University of Queensland’s Dr Janni Leung has taken the brave step of pointing out what the independent evidence from around the world says – accepted here as ‘the truth’. It is a brave move because she will now face public condemnation and the possibility of the removal of research funds and career advancement opportunities in her home country.
She begins with a statement that has been lost to those following a strong prohibitionist agenda: “E-cigarettes were originally developed by a pharmacist to help people quit smoking.”
This simple sentence puts a lie to claims that vaping is a Big Tobacco plot to ensnare future generations to nicotine addiction.
The second step she makes is to destroy the argument that vaping doesn’t work: “The highest level of scientific evidence shown in systematic reviews and meta-analyses indicates that people who use nicotine e-cigarettes to help them quit are two times more likely to be successful at remaining smoke-free than placebo vaping, and one and a half times more effective than NRT.”
Thirdly, she poses the obvious question: Why does the Australian government effectively ban a reduced harm product that works for smoking cessation when it allows cigarettes to remain on sale?
There will be some uncomfortable shifting in seats as those behind the ban read her words.
But it goes wider as the Australian approach is often cited in conjunction with America’s as justification for taking a hard or harder line elsewhere in the world – including Europe. This is important to the UK because the EU is currently pulling together its latest version of vape legislation.
But we have left Europe, is what many say, how can this possibly impact us?
Despite leaving the EU, future trade deals will involve compromise over related and unrelated legislation. All of Europe’s consumer groups are warning that harsh EU legislation could come back to haunt the UK. Also, it would give people at home who are opposed to vaping more ammunition when they lobby politicians.
“E-cigarettes and vaping: what we know so far” may not stop global anti-ecig legislation on its own, but its publication in a country staunchly opposed to e-cigarettes may help to eventually break that dam.