Did A Leopard Just Change Its Spots? Pressure On Health Minister To Reverse Aussie Vaping Ban
Tobacco remains a significant cause of death and disability in Australia. Around 3.3 million Australians still smoke, and an estimated 15,000 people die each year of smoking-related illness.
This commission really is a welcomed change for the Australian people, who have been fed nothing but personal opinions while the rest of the world adapts campaigns toward saving lives through Tobacco Harm Reduction.
Senator David Leyonhjelm has been Health Minister Greg Hunt’s opposition to legalising vaping, but now could be working alongside the Minister to give much needed guidance as his position changes.
In an astonishing and very unexpected turn of events, Greg Hunt MP – the man famously known among the Australian vaping community as having stated “It’s not going to be happening on my watch as far as I’m concerned” – has succumbed to the overwhelming pressure enforced by his peers (Liberal parliamentarians) to commission research on the potential health benefits of e-cigarettes.
This comes just six months after a parliamentary inquiry opposed their legalization, as well as ignored close to a decade of international studies and research.
Before this historic ‘Hunt Back Flip’, lest we forget some of the misinformed statements he circulated through the media:
“There is clear evidence that it’s likely to lead to the uptake of cigarette smoking”
“It’s big tobacco which is arguing the case for these e-cigarettes and they’re only doing it because it’s in their interests”
“I have a very strong, clear, categorical view that this is not something that should occur in Australia.”
While this may seem like an attack by bringing up the past, be assured it most definitely is not. Nothing but praise and respect must be given to people who are willing to swallow their pride and accept the environment around them. Even though so much has been ignored by our politicians around the subject, this is a small win in the right direction.
Statement from the Ministers spokeswoman yesterday;
“The government will commission independent research in this area, possibly through the National Centre for Epidemiology and Population Health at the Australian National University,”
“This research would complement the existing research by bodies such as the NHMRC (National Health and Medical Research Council) and NDARC (National Drug Alcohol Research Centre).
While this is only a small breakthrough, it’s a big win for those campaigning for change and the choice to purchase nicotine legally within Australia.
Sadly we mustn’t forget the elephant in the room.
Besides being healthier, vaping is close to 90% cheaper than smoking cigarettes in Australia, ringing true that The Only Thing Smoking Doesn’t Kill Is The Government.
Vaping could lead to a huge problem for our economy where most of the cost of a $40 packet of cigarettes is tax.
“It would probably shock the average person on the street to discover that the government collects more tax from cigarettes ($9.8 billion) than it collects from tax on superannuation ($6.8 billion), over double what it collects from Fringe Benefits Tax ($4.4 billion) and over thirteen times more tax than it does from our oil fields ($741 million).”
“[Prime Minister] Turnbull is increasing the tax on cigarettes by 12.5% a year for the next four years. In the latest federal budget, the government forecasts that by 2020 that it will collect $15.2 billion from taxes on tobacco per annum. This is four times the amount that the government collects from the entire coal industry per annum. Just compare these numbers:
$15 billion is over double what the government projects it will collect from petrol excise in that year ($7.15b), 21 times what it will collect from luxury car tax ($720m), 27 times what it will collect from taxes on imported cars ($560m) and 89 times what it will collect from customs duty on textile and footwear imports ($170m).”
While many say that the annual price hike is designed to deter smokers from purchasing cigarettes and instead search for healthier “approved” alternatives such as patches, the reality is as Barrie explains;
“If you look through federal budget forecasts, taxes on cigarettes is the only thing practically floating the federal government’s finances other than wishful thinking in forward projections. Which is, of course, some other future administration’s problem.
How they think they can raise $15 billion in taxes per year on cigarettes — a product that costs a cent per stick to make and will retail for almost $2 a stick in 2020 — without creating a thriving black market, another Pablo Escobar and throwing hundreds, perhaps thousands of people in jail, who will decide unwisely to participate in that black market, astounds me.”
Yet, Science can no longer be ignored and people want answers.
A press release published on the 19th of August 2015 by Public Health England states that in an expert independent evidence review, it was concluded that “e-cigarettes are around 95% less harmful than tobacco”.
They still stand by these findings.
Despite some claims, e-cigarettes are not completely risk-free, but are much safer than traditional smoking. Other studies published in October 2017 concluded that the vapor from an e-cigarette is 57,000 times less dangerous than smoking.
The Health Minister hasn’t been the only one to backflip on this issue.
The American Cancer Society released a Change Of Position Statement on Electronic Cigarettes, which will be used to guide ACS’s tobacco control and cessation efforts as it relates to these products. It opens with the hard-hitting fact that cigarettes are killing 7 million people each year worldwide.
Their Scientific Summary from January this year:
“Based on currently available evidence, using current generation e-cigarettes is less harmful than smoking cigarettes, but the health effects of long-term use are not known. The American Cancer Society (the ACS) recognizes our responsibility to closely monitor and synthesize scientific knowledge about the effects of all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes and any new products derived from tobacco. As new evidence emerges, the ACS will promptly report these findings to policy makers, the public and clinicians.”
Australia needs to keep up with the rest of the world instead of constantly falling behind on the issues that matter most. Let’s hope the new research is carried out diligently and doesn’t simply fall on deaf ears, as we’ve seen before.
It’s time that the health and longevity of the Australian people takes precedence.