While global tobacco harm reduction activists have been calling on Australian authorities to cease the attack on vaping and ease restrictions, South Australia (SA) is calling for the exact opposite.
A recent SA survey has reported that two out of three teens surveyed have said they have tried vaping. To this effect, the state’s Education Minister Blair Boyer is calling for a national approach to tackling the “issue” and is planning to raise it with his federal counterpart Jason Clare.
“This is a serious issue that needs national attention and South Australia will be leading the charge in getting this on the national agenda,” said Boyer. “We’re keen to be proactive and forward-thinking as a state government and work collaboratively with the commonwealth to ensure the health and wellbeing of our young people.”
Similarly, Health Minister Chris Picton said that vaping is clearly becoming more of a problem and is increasingly prevalent in schools. “We want to do what we can at a state level to protect our children and reduce the harms caused by e-cigarettes,” he said.
Meanwhile, Executive Co-ordinator of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) Nancy Loucas, has recently highlighted that efforts to reduce harm by enforcing further vape restrictions are misdirected.
“Much needed health resources should be directed towards providing Australians more urgent healthcare and elective surgeries, not on a pointless vaping witch hunt,” she said. Her comments follow recent actions by New South Wales Chief Health Officer Dr. Kerry Chant who has threatened law-abiding retailers that could spend up to six months in prison, or be fined up to $1,650, or both if they keep selling nicotine vapes.
Australia is already home to some of the world’s strictest vape regulations, making the products inaccessible to many smokers who could reduce harm by switching to relatively safer products. In fact, in a letter sent on Wednesday, July 20th, vaping activists from around the world called on Australia’s Ministry of Health, urging it to cease these ongoing attacks.
The letter was written in response to a warning vape shop owners across Western Australia have received from WA health department inspectors, asking them to cease operations within 14 days.
Australia’s misguided approach
CAPHRA added that Australia is falling further and further behind in terms of adopting effective Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) policies to reduce the local smoking rates. “After a decade of a Liberal Government railing against vaping while the number of smokers barely moved, we hoped the new Labor Government would take a more progressive approach to reduce Australia’s stubbornly high smoking rate.
“Sadly, all we’ve seen in recent months is a worsening vaping witch hunt. This approach is frankly going to kill Australian smokers desperate to quit because they’re not getting the support or reasonable access to switch to considerably less harmful nicotine vaping,” she said.