Tobacco Harm Reduction Now would like to thank Senator Cory Bernardi of the Australian Conservatives for speaking in support of legalised nicotine vaping.
Senator Bernardi spoke in Parliament last night, urging federal representatives and the Health Ministry to act now to put life-saving vape technology in the hands of Australia's smokers.
Here is the full text:
"Senator BERNARDI (South Australia) (19:20): Last Thursday, 23 March, the Therapeutic Goods Administration's joint advisory committee on chemicals and medicines scheduling rejected an application made by the New Nicotine Alliance to permit the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes. To be clear, the TGA, the advisory committee and ultimately the Department of Health oversee a poisons standard that allows the sale of nicotine in cigarettes. Cigarettes are the most harmful way to consume nicotine, yet the Department of Health allows them to be sold virtually everywhere. However, the same department is happy to enforce the ban on the sale of e-cigarettes to people who want to quit smoking and improve their quality of life.
In 1976 Professor Michael Russell published an idea in the British Medical Journal. He said, 'People smoke for nicotine but they die from the tar.' Based on his foundational work, nicotine replacement therapy was accepted as a way for smokers to quit. Patches, gum and sprays were developed in the knowledge that individual and population health outcomes improved when people could quit smoking with the help of these products.
If we fast-forward 40 years, e-cigarettes have been legalised and are widely used to reduce smoking rates across the developed world, with the United States and Europe leading the way. Recently, New Zealand and Canada have announced their intention to legalise e-cigarettes as well. Australia is the only country in the Anglosphere to maintain a ban. It is an extreme and out-of-touch position.
A conservative estimate for the United States published last year by leading international academics, including Professor Ron Borland from the Cancer Council Victoria, found that vaporised nicotine products, or VNPs, including e-cigarettes would save tens of thousands of lives. They say:
Based on current use patterns and conservative assumptions, we project a reduction of 21% in smoking-attributable deaths and of 20% in life years lost as a result of VNP use by the 1997 US birth cohort compared to a scenario without VNPs.
Obviously, the results are not directly comparable with Australia, but our Department of Health advise that tobacco consumption costs 15,000 Australian lives and $31.5 billion in economic and social costs each and every year, making smoking one the largest avoidable causes of death. Imagine that we could swiftly reduce that by 20 per cent: why would we not do so?
Public health bodies overseas and some of our leading anti-tobacco researchers are very supportive of e-cigarettes. Everyone—and I mean everyone—agrees that e-cigarettes are less harmful for smokers and those around them. Most people acknowledge that while there are some risks, especially of uptake by children, these are small and can be managed with appropriate regulation, given that there are not enough people in the whole of Australia who could use them to cause more harm in any reasonable public health equation. We have tried a lot of things over the years to get people to stop smoking, from research through public advertising to more coercive and controversial measures such as huge tax rises and plain packaging. I can only dream that they could all have such an impact on saving lives as e-cigarettes could. Given that tens of thousands of lives can be saved, we must ask whether there will be a time when Department of Health officials are called before parliament to answer for what they do and say now.
Ultimately, this is an easy question I ask myself and I ask others. Would you want a loved one who cannot or will not quit smoking to light a cigarette or to use an e-cigarette that is far less harmful and that may actually save their life? It is a simple question really, and I believe there is a very easy answer. And if we know the answer for our own love ones, how then can the Department of Health deny them to the whole Australian public?
I want to put on the record, to inform the ministers, Minister Hunt and Minister Gillespie, of the need for action in Australia. If the TGA and the Department of Health cannot do what is right here, then ultimately the parliament will have to do what is right and take this decision away from the ministers responsible."
Satyajeet Marar is the Director of MyChoice Australia and Tobacco Harm Reduction Now (THRNow)