“Life is short, and shorter for smokers. Just legalise vaping.”
So read Liberal MP Andrew Laming’s short dissenting report given to the Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport, presented for the purposes of the committee’s “Report on the Inquiry into the Use and Marketing of Electronic Cigarettes and Personal Vaporisers in Australia”.
If only such succinct, accurate statements were enough to demonstrate what most long-term vapers know – that vaping is safer than smoking – and in turn influence policy.''Life is short, and shorter for smokers. Just legalise vaping.'' - Andrew Laming, Liberal MP to the federal government's committee on e-cigarettes. Click To Tweet
The committee’s recommendations
The committee looked at reports from other countries, including Public Health England’s now-famous “95% safer” report from 2016. It also accepted submissions from industry groups AVATAR (Australian Vaping Advocacy, Trade and Research), the New Nicotine Alliance, and pro-vaping researcher Dr. Colin Mendelsohn.
However, roadblocks came from active anti-vaping campaigners the Cancer Council, the Australian Medical Association (AMA), and Professor Simon Chapman. These three have been constant threats to the legalisation of nicotine (and vaping in general) in Australia for some time, mostly based on misunderstood science and personal bias.
The committee eventually recommended that the status quo remain – for now. Further research is needed. They gave five recommendations going forward:
- That the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) fund an independent, comprehensive bi-annual review into the health impacts of e-cigarettes, particularly their use as a cessation aid.
- That the Department of Health convene a meeting of experts to discuss different policy and legislative approaches to e-cigarettes.
- That a national regulation framework be established for non-nicotine e-cigarettes.
- That the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA) continue to oversee the classification of nicotine.
- That the Australian government assess and, if necessary, restrict the colourings and flavourings used in e-cigarette liquids.
A committee divided
Andrew Laming wasn’t the only politician to provide a dissenting report, though.
The chair of the committee, Liberal MP Trent Zimmerman, also co-authored a dissenting report with fellow Liberal MP Tim Wilson. This dissenting report recommended the legalisation of nicotine e-cigarettes.
“In the face of often contradictory evidence, this has been a difficult inquiry for the Committee,” Zimmerman and Wilson wrote. “Having considered the evidence presented to the Committee, however, we have formed a very different view to that reflected in the majority report.”
Zimmerman and Wilson came up with their own recommendations, which included:
- That nicotine in e-cigarettes be given an exemption from Schedule 7 of the Poisons Standard, effectively making its use legal in Australia in the same way that nicotine is legal in pre-packaged tobacco.
- That Australia should consider legislation similar to the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive (TPD).
- That the Australian government establish a notification system for new products entering the Australian marketplace.
Furthermore, Zimmerman and Wilson also backed the committee’s recommendation that the government assess and, if necessary, restrict the colourings and flavourings used in e-cigarette liquids.
In the wake of often contradictory recent legislation in the eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, it’s a welcome change that the federal government is willing to continue research.
The alternative to continued research would be knee-jerk reactive legislation based on existing tobacco laws, and that’s especially bad for entrenched smokers. As Zimmerman and Wilson point out, Australia already has a series of complex laws which, in effect, promote the use of the more harmful traditional tobacco products due to the prohibition of nicotine in e-cigarette liquids.
We’ll take the status quo for now.In the wake of often contradictory recent legislation in the eastern states of New South Wales and Victoria, it's a welcome change that the federal government is willing to continue research. Click To Tweet
Haggan, M., “Minority report as committee divided over e-cigs”, Australian Journal of Pharmacy, 28 March 2018
Han, E., “Nicotine e-cigarettes ban to remain, despite protests from Liberal MPs”, Sydney Morning Herald, 29 March 2018
Parliament of the Commonwealth of Australia, “Report on the Inquiry into the Use and Marketing of Electronic Cigarettes and Personal Vaporisers in Australia”, March 2018