The TGA had promised a review of the current regulatory regime at 3, 6 and 12 months. However, this was cancelled without warning or explanation.
As of October 2021, vapers in Australia are only able to purchase vaping products from pharmacies via prescription. Anyone caught violating these harsh measures faces steep fines, and in some cases even imprisonment. Tobacco harm reduction experts have long argued that this measure would just lead to a thriving black market of the products.

In fact, the Head of Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) Associate Professor John Skerrit, recently contradicted himself when he 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.”

Recently questioned at Senate Estimates in Canberra, Skerrit made the following points:

  • “There has been a dramatic increase in youth vaping
  • Huge numbers of low-quality products are entering the country and are being sold on the black market and we can’t stop them
  • Only 1,353 doctors have applied to be authorised prescribers out of 130,000 registered doctors (1%)
  • Less than 10% of adult vapers have a prescription for nicotine”

Interestingly he admitted that the local black market for the products has boomed and so has a resulting increase in teen vaping. Yet not only does the TGA deny the sad reality staring everyone in the face, but it has been successfully advocating for even harsher regulations.

Earlier this year, tobacco treatment expert Dr. Colin Mendelsohn explained that Skerritt had previously promised a review of the current regulatory regime at 3, 6 and 12 months. But to the shock of many, the review was cancelled without warning or explanation.

Local laws are stalling smoking cessation rates

Meanwhile, a recent study published in BMJ Open had confirmed that Australia’s harsh and outdated vape policy, has stalled the country’s smoking cessation efforts. Titled, “Impact of vaping introduction on cigarette smoking in six jurisdictions with varied regulatory approaches to vaping: an interrupted time series analysis,” the study analyzed smoking rates and cigarette consumption in 6 jurisdictions with different regulatory environments for vaping: Alberta, Ontario, Quebec and British Columbia (in Canada), UK and Australia.

Of these Australia has the harshest vape regulations and subsequently the lowest vaping rates. However it also has one of the lowest rates of progress with regards to declining smoking rates.

Teen smoking rates started declining faster in other countries when vapes became available

In a blog discussing this study, Mendelsohn said that its findings indicate once again that in Canada and the UK, smoking consumption and smoking rates in young adults started declining faster once vapes arrived on the scene. “However in Australia, the decline in cigarette consumption by adult smokers has slowed and the decline in smoking rates in young adults has also slowed after vaping became available.”

“Australia has the harshest vaping regulations in the western world based on misguided concerns that vaping could lead young people who would otherwise not take up smoking to smoke. However this is perversely preventing adults from accessing a life-saving alternative and leading to more smoking-related deaths and illnesses,” added Mendelsohn.

Another report, this time by London-based Independent Economics LLC reiterated that Australia’s harsh vape regulations are a total failure as many doctors and smokers did not warm up to the prescription-only model. However, vaping is still skyrocketing via the black market.

The report has revealed that vaping has actually tripled in the last three years. There are currently 1.3 million vaping adults in Australia, equating to 6.5% of the adult population. Consisting of 3,056 adults, the survey conducted in February 2023 found that only 8% of existing vapers have a prescription.

While another recent paper by Dr. Mendelsohn himself, reviewed 12 months of “progress” since the TGA introduced Australia’s prescription-only vape regulations. Sadly, this confirmed that the regulations have had the opposite affect than their intended aim.

Meanwhile, had recently reported that many tobacconists across Australia are still selling disposable vapes under the counter while delivery services are reportedly easy to access via social media. Theo Foukkare, CEO Australian Association of Convenience Stores, said that while he believes in making the products inaccessible to teens, he is against making them unavailable to adult smokers.

“To be clear, we are aligned with advocates on wanting to control youth vaping. Young people should not be using these products. Where we differ significantly from the medical lobby is in what will achieve that goal. The incessant calls for doubling down on the existing failing policy are, quite simply, divorced from reality.”

To this effect in 2022, ACT Health Minister Rachel Stephen-Smith proposed tougher vape restrictions to prevent access to minors. A measure proposed by Stephen-Smith included a proposal to recruit minors as mystery shoppers so as to catch any vape retailers who are not compliant.

Local health research council exaggerated vaping risks

Adding fuel to the fire, a 2022 statement released by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) said that it aimed to provide “public health advice on the safety and impacts of electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) based on review of the current evidence.” However, an article in Addiction by eleven experts in the field discussing the statement, explained that evidently the council has not reviewed the science available on the products.

The article authors, amongst whom was Mendelsohn, highlighted that the NHMRC exaggerated the risks of vaping and failed to mention their relative safety when compared to smoking. Moreover the report said that vaping leads to smoking, a theory that has been disproved by recognised health bodies. In short, the NHMRC failed to acknowledge in any way that vaping is of benefit to public health.

“Many leading international scientists in the field hold more supportive views than the NHMRC on the potential of e-cigarettes as a strategy to improve public health,” said Mendelsohn. “In particular, invoking the precautionary principle to prevent the use of much less harmful smoke-free products is unjustified in the face of the massive public health burden of smoking.”

Not long ago, Mendelsohn highlighted once again that given the relative safety of vapes, switching from smoking to vaping is the most effective way to quit smoking. He even wrote a book on the topic: Stop Smoking Start Vaping: The Healthy Truth About Vaping, and has been taking the matter up with cancer councils in Australia.

“In its 2021 report, the UK Royal College of Physicians concluded ‘e-cigarettes are an effective treatment for tobacco dependency and their use should be included and encouraged in all treatment pathways’. And this is something all Australian cancer councils should consider,” he said.

“Vaping is available at a time when, worldwide, there have been 100 million smoking related deaths over the last 15 years. “Switching from smoking to vaping dramatically reduces your risk of cancer. The cancer risk from vaping nicotine has been estimated to be more than 200 times less than the cancer risk from smoking,” added Mendelsohn.

Strict regulations make it easier for kids to obtain products illegally

Meanwhile, evidently not understanding that the current harsh regulations are making it easier for minors to obtain vapes illegally, a recent survey found that nine in ten Australian adults are in favour of even stricter restrictions. The study was conducted by Victoria’s Centre for Behavioural Research in Cancer, in response to the state’s Quitline getting calls from vape-addicted teens.

Sadly, members of the public will soon see for themselves that more rigid regulations are not the answer. Local regulators have just announced they will indeed be setting in place further and harsher restrictions. Set to be fully revealed in the May budget, the new measures include a ban on the importation of most vapes, a plain packaging regulation, a nicotine cap and a ban on disposable vapes.

Australia Has Just Delivered One Final Blow to Vapers



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