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Originally posted on Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association website

BURNING ISSUES, the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report published today provides the latest information on safer nicotine products and their public health potential. It is also very critical of Australian policy.

Safer nicotine products (SNPs), vaping, snus and heated tobacco products, are described in the report as “one of the most startling public health success stories of modern times.” Adoption has been “a public health revolution driven by consumers, with minimal cost to governments”.

The report estimates that there are now 68 million people vaping worldwide

Tobacco companies are estimated to have less than 20 per cent market share of the global vaping market.

Another 30 million are using snus or heated tobacco products.

As the evidence build on vaping (there are now over 6,300 peer reviewed scientific articles) it is increasingly clear that

  • “no robust evidence has emerged to throw doubt on the widely quoted conclusion of Public Health England that vaping is at least 95 per cent less risky than smoking”
  • “There is no identified risk of ‘passive vaping’ to bystanders”
  • “Most youth who do vape are current or former smokers and most use is infrequent”

Australia falling behind

The report says the role of government should be to hasten the switch from smoking, rather than to place obstacles in the way of those who wish to use SNP.  However, “Australian federal and state governments remain implacably opposed to changing the laws in order to promote tobacco harm reduction”.

Australia is highlighted as the only western country to ban the sale of nicotine vaping products

This places Australia in the company of North Korea, Iran and Syria, who are among the final few nations globally to continue to ban vaping.

The other countries which ban sale are: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Bhutan, Brazil, Brunei, Cambodia, Colombia, East Timor, Egypt, Ethiopia, Gambia, India, Japan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Mauritius, Mexico, Nepal, Nicaragua, Oman, Panama, Qatar, Seychelles, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Suriname, Thailand, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Uruguay, Venezuela.

Fiona Patten MLC, Member of the Victorian Parliament, wrote a Foreward to the report in which she states

“Australia was once a leader in harm reduction as well as effective tobacco regulation, but we are desperately falling behind because we are ignoring the facts. Our stagnant smoking rates are evidence of this”

Another result of Australia’s backward policy is that “a significant number of consumers are buying unregulated products from nearby markets in Asia” putting Australian vapers at risk.

Recommendations

The report makes some important recommendations which Australian policy makers should urgently consider

  • SNPs should be controlled and regulated as consumer products, and consumers need to be assured of the quality of the products they are using
  • No action should be taken which has the consequence of favouring smoking over SNPs, such as making SNPs harder to obtain than cigarettes
  • Governments should ensure consumer safety in relation to SNPs, based on safety standards available through international, regional and national bodies
  • Having a choice of flavours in SNPs is an important aspect of the decision to switch away from smoking and to avoid relapse. Banning flavours is counter-productive to positive public health outcomes
  • There is no identified risk of ‘passive vaping’ to bystanders. The decision to control vaping in particular locations should be left to individual organisations and businesses, rather than through blanket prohibition by government bodies.

SNPs offers an unprecedented exit strategy that has been shown to be acceptable to smokers and at minimal cost to governments

Australia needs to get with the program!

Resources

Burning issues. Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report. 2020

Originally Posted by Colin Mendelsohn, 4 November 2020 on athra.org.au