Vaping advocates and MP's fought back against the proposal.
The Australian Department of Health has thankfully delayed a recent proposed ruling, which would virtually bring vaping in Australia to an end. The initial proposal was to prohibit the importation of vaping products into Australia and looked set to come into force on July, 1st. A fightback from MPs who respect the importance of vaping has led to a delay until January, 1st 2021
Sales of vaping products have been outlawed in Australia for a number of years, but vapers have been able to access e-cigarettes and e-liquid shipped from overseas to help them remain smoke-free. There are around 300,000 people vaping in Australia after making the life-changing switch away from cigarettes. This baffling new law would simply penalise this group of people for making a positive change. It would also strip the 2.6 million Australian smokers of the chance to quit smoking with the help of an e-cigarette; the most effective quitting aid, according to UK scientific research. (a reference?)
A joint statement from the Australian Department of Health and Border Force on June 19th read, “The Minister for Health, the Hon Greg Hunt MP, requested the Department of Health to work with the Australian Border Force on a new approach to regulating e-cigarettes containing vaporiser nicotine.”
Greg Hunt has always remained firmly anti-vaping but this could have been the final nail in the coffin for vaping in Australia. The statement requested that the law would come into force on July 1st, giving vapers no time to stock up on supplies or think about a viable alternative.
In the slightest of conciliations, the Department of Health stated that vapers would be allowed to vape if they have discussed their needs with their doctor and have a valid prescription. However, even with a valid prescription, the vaper must have “permission granted by the Department of Health to a doctor or medical supplier who would be able to import the goods using a courier service or by cargo service.”
Backlash from Australian MPs
Hearteningly, there was a significant backlash from Australian MPs who were bemused by the proposal. A number of MPs, including liberal party member, James Paterson, campaigned to have the decision overturned. Their straightforward but sensible argument, insisted that Australian vapers rely on e-cigarette products and without them, they would likely return to the much more harmful habit of smoking.
Health Minister, Greg Hunt reacted to the revolt by allowing vapers until January 1st to prepare themselves. He said,
“…there is a second group of people who have been using these e-cigarettes with nicotine as a means to ending their cigarette smoking.
“In order to assist this group in continuing to end that addiction we will therefore provide further time for implementation of the change by establishing a streamlined process for patients obtaining prescriptions through their GP.”
The overturn of the decision shows that the effectiveness of vaping as a smoking cessation tool cannot be overlooked. However it is a rather hollow victory, as 300,000 vapers in Australia will now have to spend the next 5 months pleading with doctors to assist them in gaining access to vaping products in 2021.
Merely a silver lining?
Whilst it is refreshing to see Australian politicians showing their support for vaping, the fact is that this legislation is still set to come into force in 2021. Greg Hunt claims that the delay gives vapers time to “streamline” the process of consulting their GP and getting a prescription. This process is particularly disempowering for vapers who have taken the responsible decision to quit smoking for themselves and are now being thwarted by draconian legislation.
In a country where cigarette tax is astronomical, the majority of Australian vapers will soon be forced to either use a less-effective nicotine replacement therapy, go cold turkey or return to the much riskier option of smoking, whilst paying around AU$32.50 (£18) a pack for the privilege.
The ruling goes against the plethora of peer-reviewed scientific evidence from the UK. The UK government has shown strong support for vaping in recent years which has correlated with a decline in smoking rates. The evidence shows that e-cigarettes are not only far less harmful than cigarettes but are also the most effective quitting aid. Perhaps there should be a section that includes reference to the ‘safe importing of products’, which has some merit. We’d welcome this, and you could make a link to the amercian EVALI debacle and Liam previous article.