Minority report as committee divided over e-cigs

The Chair of the Committee inquiring into e-cigarette use in Australia has prepared a “dissenting” report recommending permitting nicotine use in e-cigarettes

Parliament’s Health, Aged Care and Sport Committee has presented its Report on the Inquiry into the Use and Marketing of Electronic Cigarettes and Personal Vaporisers in Australia, looking into the possible health impacts of the devices, international approaches to their regulation and the appropriate regulatory framework for Australia.

The Chair of the Committee, federal member for North Sydney Trent Zimmerman, says that like the evidence presented in submissions, the Committee was divided on the right regulatory approach to e-cigarettes.

“This has meant that I have found myself in the unusual position as Chair in authoring a dissenting report which recommends the ‘legalisation’ of e-cigarettes containing nicotine,” Mr Zimmerman says.

The majority of the Committee have adopted five recommendations, including:

  • A review of the evidence relating to the health impacts of e-cigarettes, to be updated every two years. Issues covered by the review would include: whether e-cigarettes can help people to quit smoking, the health effects of e-cigarette liquid (e-liquid) and long-term use of e-cigarettes, whether e-cigarettes could lead to more young people smoking and/or using nicotine, and the relative health impacts of e-cigarettes when compared to tobacco products.
  • An international meeting of health experts to discuss policy and legislative approaches to e-cigarettes.
  • A national approach to the regulation of non-nicotine e-cigarettes.
  • The Therapeutic Goods Administration’s continued role in classifying nicotine and assessing e-cigarettes.
  • Greater regulation of flavourings and colourings used in e-liquid.

In the dissenting report presented by Mr Zimmerman and Tim Wilson, the recommendations are that:

  • Nicotine used for e-cigarettes be made exempt from Schedule 7 of the Poisons Standard.
  • Legislation be passed to permit the sale and use of e-cigarettes containing nicotine with a regulatory framework for their sale and consumption based on standards found in the European Union and the United Kingdom.
  • A notification and assessment process for colour and flavourings used in e-cigarettes.

Dr Andrew Laming has also provided a dissenting report recommending that vaping be legalised.

The Public Health Association of Australia welcomed the majority report, saying it and its approach closely align with the views of leading public health experts in their recommendations for an evidence-based and precautionary approach to e-cigarettes.

The PHAA says it is also pleased to see the report acknowledge the three pillars of Australia’s harm minimisation drug policy: prevention, protection and promotion; as well as its emphasis on ensuring that e-cigarette regulation is consistent with tobacco regulation.

“Common sense has prevailed in this instance, and the public health community is pleased to see a number of very sensible recommendations in this report,” says PHAA CEO Michael Moore.

“The overall finding that the evidence is simply not there to support claims about the safety or effectiveness of e-cigarettes and therefore regulation must be precautionary. This is a very positive step for public health.”

The PHAA says it welcomes all of the recommendations in the report, particularly the recommendation for two-yearly updates on the evidence through the National Health and Medical Research Council.

“This recommendation will ensure that Australian e-cigarette policy is evidence-based and can keep up with the emerging evidence in this rapidly moving field.

“New research which supports the sensible nature of this report is arriving on an almost daily basis. The new evidence confirms concerns about impacts on young people and longer-term harms, as well as doubts about the efficacy of e-cigarettes for cessation,” Mr Moore said.

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