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Australia’s Vaping Prescription Plan: A Bitter Pill To Swallow

Australia’s federal executive government announced this week that it would be “taking strong action to reduce smoking and stamp out vaping.” This includes stopping the import of non-prescription vapes; banning all disposable vapes and ending the sale of vapes in retail settings. At the same time, the government has committed to making it easier for smokers wanting to quit using vaping to get a prescription for legitimate therapeutic use.

Kurt Yeo, co-founder of consumer advocacy group Vaping Saved My Life (VSML), says that finally there appears to be an acceptance that vaping is a viable tobacco harm reduction solution and another method that can be prescribed by a health professional. “Research has found that vaping nicotine is a more effective quitting aid than nicotine replacement products such as patches and gums and is eight times more likely to help smokers quit than those who do not vape.”

“But the Australian government has missed the reason why vaping has proven to be so successful in helping smokers quit,” he points out. “Vaping is about finding the correct device, flavour and nicotine strength, paired with expert support to achieve the desired outcome – much like developing an eating or exercise plan with a personal trainer for weight loss. With the government’s plans to restrict flavours and reduce the allowed nicotine concentrations and volumes; coupled with the shutting down of vape shops run by authorities on vaping, they will essentially be providing smokers a one-fits-all solution that is doomed to fail.”

“It is nonsensical that a product proven to be less harmful requires a prescription, whilst a known deadlier alternative is available at many outlets. This is like making flavourless fat-or sugar-free products available only with a prescription,” explains Yeo.

He adds that the vaping crackdown is extremely short-sighted. “Countries which have supported vaping such as the United Kingdom and New Zealand have experienced accelerated declines in smoking rates. For example, in New Zealand the national adult smoking rate fell by an unprecedented 33% in the two years between 2020 and 2022 after vaping was legalised.”

With these measures designed to protect young Australians, Yeo maintains that a balanced regulatory model is needed which allows adult smokers easy access to regulated vaping products while restricting access to underage users. “There should be licensing around these products, like with alcohol and combustible tobacco. The current plan will restrict adult smokers’ access to an effective quitting aid which can save lives and prevent smoking-related illness.”