Vaping nicotine: ‘not on my watch’

Using e-cigarettes could be a gateway to smoking the real thing, Health Minister Greg Hunt says

In an interview with Triple J Hack reporter Sarah McVeigh, Mr Hunt said he felt the push for allowing, regulating and supporting the use of e-cigarettes was coming from tobacco companies.

He also said he had been advised by the head of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (Dr John Skerritt) today that “there’s no strong evidence at all that this is a pathway of people quitting”.

“There is clear evidence that it’s likely to lead to the uptake of cigarettes, cigarette smoking, it creates the habit from around the world.

“My view is that this is not a desirable path and there are a lot of myths that personally I want to see exposed. Nicotine is highly addictive.”

The Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport is currently underway.

In February 2017, the TGA announced that the ban on nicotine in e-cigarettes would remain, citing concerns about safety of long-term exposure to e-cigarettes, the risk of nicotine dependence, and the risk that manufacturers and suppliers would inappropriately promote the products, including to under-18s.

“This is something where we responded to the request of the House of Representatives Health Committee to inquire in to the claims and I think the parliamentary process is a good way of dealing with and exposing those claims,” Mr Hunt told Hack.

“But frankly 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.”

When Ms McVeigh asked whether nicotine would be permitted in e-cigarettes under the Coalition government, Mr Hunt responded: “It’s not going to be happening on my watch as far as I’m concerned”.

Mr Hunt’s statements came as British expert Clive Bates, a former director of the UK’s Action on Smoking and Health, was in Australia to address the inquiry.

Sydney Morning Herald health reporter Esther Han wrote that Mr Bates said it was “shocking” that Australians had to break the low if they attempted to quit smoking using nicotine-containing e-cigarettes.

“Why punish someone for doing what millions of Brits and Americans have done successfully and feel good about, causing no harm to anyone else?” he said.

The Australian Medical Association’s national president, Dr Michael Gannon, did not seem impressed.


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