If you look around in 2023, vaping is absolutely everywhere.
E-cigarettes are being touted as the miracle saviour to help people quit smoking, but I think they’re doing more harm than good.
The TGA recently asked for public submissions on vaping reforms and regulations, which I believe was overdue. This is a public health issue and one that must be reviewed with a sense of urgency.
It’s clear to me that we need stricter regulations around vaping products because we know far too little about their safety and quality.
And like it or not there is already a thriving black market which skirts the ‘prescription only’ rules... this will only get worse the longer reforms and tighter regulations are lacking.
But how do we reform vaping in Australia? I disagree with Britain’s NHS model and believe they’ve got it all wrong when it comes to vaping.
Why? Well the NHS are actively promoting vaping as a way to quit smoking in the UK and when so little is known about the long term effects on people’s health, I believe this is dangerous ground for any health service to be on.
According to the NHS, many thousands of people in the UK have stopped smoking with the help of an e-cigarette.
A 2021 NHS review found people who used e-cigarettes to quit smoking, combined with expert face-to-face support, are twice as likely to succeed as people who used other nicotine replacement products, such as patches or gum.
But they also admit that the long-term risks of vaping are not yet clear. So, my question is, before we have all the evidence, is this really something we should be promoting in Australia? Notwithstanding our children are accessing these things right now.
Several key Australian health organisations, such as the Australian Medical Association (AMA), Cancer Council Australia and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health (ACOSH) have also recently published their positions on e-cigarettes, and their messages were loud and clear:
- There is insufficient evidence to promote the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation;
- There is increasing evidence of health harms;
- E-cigarettes may normalise the act of smoking and attract young people;
- E-cigarettes should be more properly regulated
It’s our role as a private health insurance provider to advocate for better health.
As St. Lukes Health CEO Paul Lupo said this week after calling on the TGA to introduce tougher restrictions on vaping: “We need to set health policies to support good health – not health policies that support an industry to continue making money from addiction and terrible health outcomes”.
I agree with Paul that right now, “there is a compelling case for policy makers to take action to eliminate a situation which, if left unchecked, is expected to result in chronic diseases and addiction over coming decades”.
Our goal should be advancing the end game for tobacco. Just like St. Lukes is pushing for in Tasmania.
The Tasmanian Government recently launched the Tasmanian Tobacco Action Plan 2022-2026, which aims to put a formal review in place to end all sales of smoking products in the State, with the aim of eventually ending the commercial sale of cigarettes and tobacco by 2030.
It’s a bold plan, but one I whole heartedly support and believe we should be following in Western Australia.
The Department of Health has confirmed that hazardous substances have been found in e-cigarette liquids and in the aerosol produced by e-cigarettes, including three known cancer-causing agents, formaldehyde, acetaldehyde and acrolein.
Then there’s the minefield of teens and vaping.
It’s a growing concern in teens aged as young as 14. HIF is currently calling for reforms that prevent children and adolescents from accessing vapes because their lolly-like flavours and packaging appeal to them, just like alco-pops do.
When it comes to helping people quit smoking, I think we can do better than offering another alternative that might also be harmful to people’s health. Most private health funds like ours offer support and rebates to help smokers on their quit smoking journey.
In our society we love a quick fix, a shortcut, but unfortunately just like all things in life, you have to do the work to get the results and quitting smoking is no different.
I’m happy to be proved wrong in 20 years’ time when we have proper research on the real effects of vaping, but until then I’ll maintain my stance that it’s a fool’s paradise and one we should not be supporting in Australia.
- Justin James
CEO of HIF Australia