Today marks yet another milestone in the acceptance of vaping as a Tobacco Harm Reduction alternative to smoking. We have already seen a significant shift towards evidence based policy from the Royal College of Physicians and Public Health England, and even ASH has done a graceful and very welcome about turn, admitting that vaping is significantly safer, has advantages as a cessation aid, and does not act as a gateway to smoking.
This is the first time the British Medical Association has published a report that endorses vaping for harm reduction however. They state in the key points “There is growing consensus that using an e-cigarette is substantially safer than smoking tobacco“. It’s very important to note that they are talking about a consensus in the scientific and medical fields when the evidence is weighed rather carefully. This rather understated and conservative approach from the RCP, PHE and the BMA hides what is actually a consumer led public health revolution, and it was achieved by UK vapers. For the first time in history the smoking rate in the UK is set to fall below that in Australia.
This brings us to the main problem we have in Australia, where the scientific evidence being presented to our politicians is entirely one sided. Instead of looking at all the evidence and all the rebuttals that have been presented, Australia is continuing down the path of prohibition for vaping. In a country where 18,000 Australians die every year from smoking related diseases, the harm reduction alternative that has not been proven to cause any permanent harm has the de facto status of being banned by nicotine being illegal for sale in Australia. It’s OK to sell nicotine in the most deadly form – cigarettes which can be bought from any convenience store or service station in the country – but nicotine to fuel what is the greatest public health boon since x-rays, penicillin and vaccinations can see you with hefty fines or even a jail sentence.
Whereas the lower smoking rate in Australia used to be looked at enviously by Tobacco Control in the UK, our policies in the face of new evidence for the efficacy and relative safety of vaping are starting to make us stick out for all the wrong reasons.