Op- Ed: There are much safer, more effective ways to help smokers quit than vaping.

(2022, October 4). The Mercury (Hobart, Australia) , p. 14, 15.

There are much safer, more effective ways to help smokers quit than vaping.

When it comes to vaping, we should leave the medical advice on prescribing to doctors, writes Bruce Levett

THERE has been a call from the Tasmanian Chamber of Commerce and Industry chief executive Michael Bailey, for Tasmania to adopt vaping as a ‘health intervention’ to help people give up smoking and he references the New Zealand public health model as an example where this is already happening.

What Mr Bailey fails to tell Tasmanians is the full story of what New Zealand is doing in promoting healthy living by reducing smoking across their Islands because vaping is only a very small part of their overall public health program.

For example, the New Zealand government has adopted the ‘Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 Action Plan’ that further restricts access and availability of smoked tobacco products and aims to further reduce their appeal and addictiveness.

To achieve this, New Zealand will restrict access to and availability of smoked tobacco products by:

FIRST, amending the age limits for sale of these products by introducing a ‘smokefree generation policy’ by gradually increasing the number of people who cannot legally purchase cigarettes. Anyone aged 14 or under after a certain date will be permanently banned from buying smoked tobacco products ever – even once they become adults.

To achieve this, the legal age to purchase cigarettes will be increased by one year every year from an agreed date, most likely 2025. How this would work in practice means that by 2056, no one under the age of 45 could purchase cigarettes in New Zealand, and by 2086, this ban would increase to effectively anyone under the age of 75.

SECONDLY, under this plan, New Zealand will significantly reduce the number of shops that sell smoked tobacco products by restricting sales to only retail outlets approved by he director-general of health. They estimate the number of retail outlets selling tobacco will drop from between an estimated 5000-8000 to around 400 – a fall of 95 per cent under this proposal.

Finally, New Zealand is working on a plan to reduce nicotine levels in smoked tobacco products sold in that country to help people who smoke quit smoking and help people, especially young people, to never become addicted in the first place.

As you can see, the aim of the New Zealand government is to completely phase out smoking, notjust introduce one strategy around vaping that may help people give up smoking cigarettes as implied by Mr Bailey.

The National Health and Medical Research Council is Australia’s leading expert body in health and medical research. The NHMRC defines e-cigarettes as those that heat liquid containing chemicals to an aerosol that users breathe in. Using an e­cigarette is also known as vaping. The NHMRC has issued a clear statement on e­cigarettes / vaping, simply they state that:

VAPING can be harmful. All vaping users are exposed to chemicals and toxins that have the potential to cause adverse health effects.

PEOPLE who have never smoked may be more likely to take up tobacco smoking if they use e-cigarettes.

TEENAGERS exposed to vaping content on social media are more likely to try vaping.

The World Health Organisation recommends that e-cigarettes are treated in the same way as tobacco products, including use of bans and restrictions on advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

There are other proven safe and effective options to help smokers quit. E-cigarettes are not proven safe and effective smoking cessation aids. For some smokers, using nicotine e-cigarettes may assist them to quit smoking. However, more research is needed to confirm the harms and benefits of using them for this purpose.

Across Australia, the sale of e-cigarettes or vapes that contain nicotine is currently illegal and Tasmania is no different. In December 2020, the TGA announced a change to the requirements of importing nicotine vapes and from October 2021, the importation of nicotine e­cigarettes requires a doctor’s prescription. The aim of this change is to prevent young people from taking up nicotine e-cigarettes while at the same time allowing current smokers to access these products for smoking cessation based on their doctor’s advice.

We welcome the TCCI engagement in public health as it is important all stakeholders including industry work to improve Tasmanians health and wellbeing. With nicotine vaping, perhaps we should leave the medical advice on prescribing to doctors and let pharmacies do the selling as is currently the case.

Bruce Levett is the chief executive officer of Health Consumers Tasmania.