The Federal Parliament has agreed to establish a Senate Select Committee on tobacco harm reduction to look into the use and regulation of nicotine vaping products. 

The committee will investigate tobacco harm reduction strategies by looking at how vaping has been treated in developed countries similar to Australia, (such as the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the European Union and the United States) where smoke-free alternatives like e-cigarettes and heated tobacco devices are legally available.  

It will also look at the evidence around the impact of vaping products on youth, uptake among non-smokers, and the impact nicotine vaping products have had on smoking rates in other countries. 

In addition, the committee will assess Australia’s current regulatory framework around vaping products. The law does not currently permit the sale of nicotine vaping products in Australia, so people purchase their products online from overseas suppliers. 

The Government plans to change regulations so that smoke-free products with nicotine will be available from Australian pharmacies with a doctor’s prescription. Separately, the Health Minister plans to impose fines of up to $220,000 for people caught importing nicotine products without a script.

Until now, the Australian government’s stance is increasingly at odds with dozens of other countries around the world where smoke-free alternatives such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco devices are legally available to adult smokers as consumer products.

A growing number of experts and health authorities acknowledge that smoke-free products are better alternatives than continuing to smoke cigarettes and can make a positive contribution to improving public health.

There are still approximately 3 million smokers in Australia and while the best thing they can do is quit tobacco and nicotine altogether, the reality is that many adult smokers will continue to smoke cigarettes – one of the most harmful ways to consume nicotine. 

It’s time for the government to consider a new approach and introduce regulations to allow adult smokers access to smoke-free products such as e-cigarettes and heated tobacco devices which are better alternatives rather than continuing to smoke cigarettes. 

Recent government data reveals that 44% of smokers use e-cigarettes to give up smoking. It also shows that 99% of people who have never smoked have either never used e-cigarettes, or only tried them once or twice.1

It is encouraging that the select committee will consider regulations to allow adult smokers access to scientifically-substantiated smoke-free alternatives from a tobacco harm reduction perspective. We would welcome outcomes that, with the right oversight from government authorities,would encourage smokers to switch to better alternatives rather than continuing to smoke. 

The committee, which is due to report back to parliament by 1 December 2020, is inviting members of the public and organisations to send in their opinions and proposals on tobacco harm reduction strategies. 

For more information about the Parliamentary inquiry or to make a submission, go to Select Committee on Tobacco Harm Reduction.  

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1 National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019