June 29, 2020 - Tobacco harm reduction advocates across Asia-Pacific called on the Parliament of Australia to abort, not delay, the planned ban on imports of liquid nicotine for vaping to provide smokers with alternatives to combustible cigarettes. Factasia, a non-profit regional tobacco harm reduction consumer advocacy, said e-cigarettes or vapes, along with other smoke-free nicotine products such as heat-not-burn tobacco products and snus, have the ability to significantly reduce the health risks of millions of Australian smokers.
"This is a technology that needs to be regulated, not restricted and banned. Adult consumers should be able to access a choice of regulated devices and liquids, including those containing nicotine. Underage use should be effectively and comprehensively banned," Factasia founder Heneage Mitchell said in separate letters sent to Australia's members of parliament.
Mitchell made the statement even as Health Minister Greg Hunt decided to postpone the ban on imports of liquid nicotine by six months amid opposition from vapers, consumer groups, tobacco harm reduction experts and even members of Parliament. This means that the ban will now be delayed to 1 January 2021 from the original plan of 1 July 2020.
Mitchell said MPs should instead push for the regulation of e-cigarettes and other smoke-free nicotine products that can substantially reduce the risks suffered by smokers from the tar - the byproduct of smoke.
"Consumers need to be truthfully and fully informed of the life-saving potential of vaping and granted access to a choice of regulated harm-reduced nicotine products which, at the moment, in Australia, they are not," Mitchell said.
"To be clear, there has never been a recorded death from vaping-regulated nicotine products since the introduction of the e-cigarette in 2001. But over the same period of time, more than 130 million smokers worldwide have died from tobacco-related illnesses and disease. They include many hundreds of thousands of our Australian brothers and sisters," he said.
Ines Hage Nebyl from the Office of Tim Wilson MP acknowledged the receipt of the letter from Factasia and assured that Wilson remains a well-established supporter of allowing people to vape.
"In the last Parliament, he was part of an inquiry into the health impacts and regulation of vaping. The committee opposed legalisation and regulation. Tim was part of a dissenting report arguing the law should change as a regulated product. That was his view then. That is his view now. Tim's views have not changed; he wants people off tobacco. Further to this, Tim has expressed his views to the minister on the recent action, and will continue to do so," Nebyl said.
Wilson is among the politicians who opposed the ban on vaping, which they felt would encourage vapers to return to smoking. Sydney Morning Herald reported that 28 Coalition MPs and senators signed a petition opposing the ban on the importation of vaping products containing nicotine.
In a statement on 26 June 2020, Hunt said the delayed implementation of the ban aimed to help the group of people who have been using 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 minister said.
Tobacco harm reduction advocates said Hunt's statement provided them an opportunity to advocate for legalization and regulation of nicotine vaping in Australia, which has nearly 500,000 vapers, according to some estimates.
Mitchell said Hunt should review scientific evidence showing that vaping is 95 percent safer than smoking, as shown in the evidence review carried out by Public Health England, and is regarded as the most effective method of smoking cessation available to smokers by a vast number of researchers, medical professionals, genuine tobacco control experts and governments who looked at the evidence, including the U.K., the EU, Canada, New Zealand, Japan, Korea, the U.S., and recently, Hong Kong.
"The countries listed above continue to see historic declines in the number of citizens smoking as they switch to these far less harmful technologies," he said.
The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) said it is time for MPs to reject the ban.
"In Australia, 21,000 citizens die every year from smoking-related disease. We feel that Australians who have made the informed choice to switch to alternative nicotine consumption, such as e-cigarettes, need to be heard by their elected representatives," said CAPHRA Executive Coordinator Nancy Loucas.
Loucas noted that in neighboring New Zealand, the Ministry of Health concluded that the effects that punitive regulation would have on the people who had chosen to move away from combustible cigarettes would be negative.
Other groups have also expressed their opposition to the ban, including the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), the Progressive Public Health Alliance (PPHA), Aotearoa Vape Community Advocacy (AVCA) and Legalise Vaping Australia (LVA).
factasia.org is an independent, not-for-profit, consumer-oriented advocate for rational debate about - and sensible regulation of - the rights of adult citizens throughout the Asia-Pacific region to choose to use tobacco or other nicotine-related products.
The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) is an alliance of consumer organizations from Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, South Korea, Taiwan and Thailand that aims to educate, advocate and represent the right of adult alternative nicotine consumers to access and use of products that reduce harm from tobacco use.
Jena Fetalino, JFPRC [email protected], +639178150324
Push for Regulation
MPs should instead push for the regulation of e-cigarettes and other smoke-free nicotine products that can substantially reduce the risks suffered by smokers from the tar - the byproduct of smoke.