Senator criticised over vape bus stunt

Senator Bernardi and Vape Force One. Image: Australian Conservatives
Senator Bernardi and Vape Force One. Image: Australian Conservatives

AMA President Dr Michael Gannon has suggested that e-cigarettes could be a “gateway drug” to tobacco, as conservative Senator campaigns to support vaping

Australian Conservatives Senator Cory Bernardi has been driving “Vape Force One,” a bus advertising his support for e-cigarettes, around Parliament House in Canberra, claiming vaping offers a 60% better quit rate compared to going cold turkey.

He told Sydney Live’s Ben Fordham that “you’ve got to suspend logic” to accept Australia’s policy on e-cigarettes.

“I just can’t work it out, you know, when you’re looking at an equation and you’re adding up the numbers and you’re thinking I don’t get this, Greg Hunt told us that we had to all go to the [doctor] before buying codeine at the pharmacy because 100 people die a year related to codeine,” Mr Fordham said.

“Fifteen thousand die every year related to cigarettes.”

Senator Bernardi said that “the intransigence of Minister Hunt is ideological” and doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

He said that he had observed that vaping equipment could be bought in Australian stores – “and then they tell you you can go on the Internet and order it [nicotine for use in vaping] from New Zealand, or from overseas somewhere else”.

“Or they say ‘hey, I’ve got some already imported out the back’, and you’re committing a crime.”

In March 2017 the TGA elected to maintain the current scheduling of nicotine, which is not permitted for use in vaping.

It cited reasons including the potential risk of nicotine dependence and lack of long-term safety evidence.

Dr Michael Gannon, commenting on Senator Bernardi’s Vape Force One campaign, told Sky News’ Ashleigh Gannon that if e-cigarettes were a useful nicotine replacement therapy agent, the TGA would have listed them as such.

“We’re hearing a lot of noise from advocates for e-cigarettes, and what they do every time is compare an e-cigarette to a traditional tobacco cigarette,” Dr Gannon said.

“Now, if we were starting at ground zero, in 1600, and we had the choice of these two products, I would gladly concede that e-cigarettes are a safer product.

“But that’s no gotcha moment, the truth is that we’re fortunate enough in Australia to have limits on people’s access to e-cigarettes, and our concerns are the fact that there’s a lot of evidence internationally about dual-use—people using both e-cigarettes and traditional tobacco cigarettes.

“We’re also concerned about the international evidence that suggests that perhaps it does act as something of a gateway drug—that teenagers will start on e-cigarettes and end up smoking traditional tobacco.”

He said that decision-makers should “listen to the scientists” and that NHMRC has a process when it comes to permitting or denying access to substances such as nicotine.

“Senator Bernardi should respect that scientific process.”

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