September 05, 2020 7 min read

Australian Vaping Ban in Doubt as Pressure Mounts

The sneaky move that was reversed (or at the very least delayed until January of next year) mere days after Health Minister Greg Hunt announced the ban on nicotine that was to start on July 1 of this year, has galvanized the entire vape community in Australia. With help from politicians, doctors, health organizations, former smokers, and vapers, a massive cry went up, which was in short, basically awe-inspiring.

There is an estimate of about a quarter of a million in Australia who will be affected by the ban and in just two days from the announcement of the ban, over 72,000 signatures, or roughly a third of that number were collected and submitted opposing the ban. Given more time, that number would have been in the hundreds of thousands.

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 “Those who use e-cigarettes are more likely to try to quit and quit successfully than those who do not use e-cigarettes.”

The rushed ban in the middle of a Pandemic

One of the reasons why this vaping ban was rushed into play was because of “increased incidences of nicotine poisoning”. The actual numbers? 41 cases of liquid nicotine poisoning and one death due to the ingestion of liquid nicotine. Does that warrant a ban?

Let’s not forget that in 2018 there were 180,000 calls made to the Victorian Poisons Information Centre about kids and toddlers getting poisoned by household cleaners, chlorine/bleach, hand sanitizers, and other stuff we see lying around the house but we don’t see those items being banned right?

Another thing to point out about the “rise” in nicotine poisoning, since there’s no legal way to get top-shelf nicotine e-liquid in Australia and, forgive me for being blunt, these e-liquids could have come from dubious sources or which did not have the appropriate safety features like warning labels or child-proof bottles.

Of course, this is all speculation as no details were released with these poisoning cases, but I would just like to add if vaping were legalized and proper safety measures were put into place then these poisoning cases could have been prevented

Smokefree Aotearoa 2025

Just across the ditch, New Zealand is taking a more proactive approach in dealing with smoking with Smokefree Aotearoa 2025. Instead of imposing draconic vaping bans, they actually actively promote vaping as one of the, if not THE way to effectively stop smoking. They have set up a website called Vaping Facts NZ where they have laid out all of the information available on vaping, the good and the bad, and leave the decisions to the smoker instead of forcing what people should be doing.

Vaping Facts NZ has there on its front page, in BIG and BOLD LETTERS, VAPING CAN HELP YOU QUIT SMOKING, and VAPING IS LESS HARMFUL THAN SMOKING.

And before I forget, this is a program by the New Zealand Government. Yes, their government is telling people to vape if they want to successfully quit smoking. The keyword here? Successfully. The only regulation New Zealand has about vaping is that it cannot claim to have therapeutic effects, which is fine, since they’re already saying that it can help stop smoking and it is safer, that’s all the claims we need when it comes to vaping. Oh, yes and vaporizers and e-liquids cannot be sold to minors, which is something every vaper agrees with.

How can two countries which are neighbors and share practically the same cultures have two completely different approaches to smoking cessation? In Australia, many of the top medical decision-makers still harp about how nicotine can be addictive. Well, newsflash, everybody knows that nicotine is addictive, that’s why people are smoking and vaping in the first place! This is not what vapers are fighting for. Vapers and medical experts are not saying that vaping is safe, we’re saying that it is SAFER than smoking traditional tobacco products. It’s like the concept of harm reduction has been conveniently forgotten.

They keep saying that vaping nicotine e-liquid is bad, but at the same time, it pushes people to use nicotine products like gums and patches, which many studies have found to be ineffective and many smokers can testify to as being a waste of time and money. See what we’re getting at? Big pharma nicotine is good, vaping nicotine is bad.


Pressure from the inside to cancel the nicotine import ban in Australia

As seen from the backlash when the nicotine import ban was announced, it wasn’t only vapers that called for the cancellation of the nicotine import ban. Coalition MPs and Senators openly campaigned against the ban and helped facilitate the signing of the petition that led to the pulling back of the ban from July 1 of this year to January of 2021.

If this ban really had the support of parliament then we would be seeing more MPs come out and supporting this ban, instead we’re seeing even some of the proponents on banning vaping stay quiet on the sidelines. Even the prime minister, who is a staunch anti-smoking advocate mentioned in an interview that he would keep “an open mind” on the issue after seeing the growing support for the cancellation of the nicotine import ban in Australia.

Another reason for the backlash was this ban was announced by the health minister without public consultation or even a proper debate by parliament. Does one person have the power to unilaterally make a decision that could ultimately affect the lives of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people in Australia? We’re not only talking about the hundreds of thousands of vapers here, but we’re also talking about the millions of people that would be affected by second-hand smoke as well if these vapers were pushed back into smoking. This is a national health issue that shouldn’t have been sneaked in at the end of a sitting week and wasn’t even put to the Coalition party room. Talk about trying to steamroll something this important.

More and more government officials are expressing the same opinion as vapers that the proposed regulations are so onerous that no one would be able to follow them, which will basically be pushing people back to smoking. With less than 10 doctors listed on the ATHRA site that are available to provide the required prescription for nicotine importation, the proposed “regulation” is basically an outright ban, and this is why people are treating it as such.

Flimsy reasoning like pharmacists can import and fill nicotine needs have also come under fire because as of September 2020, no pharmacy has been given the proper permits and licenses to import nicotine to fill nicotine e-liquid prescriptions.


The Nicotine E-liquid Ban and Tobacco price hike will open a Pandora’s box

What the health minister has forgotten to consider is that effectively banning nicotine e-liquid in Australia will cause a host of problems, vapers going back to smoking being the least of them. That is if people can still afford to go back to smoking. With the latest round of tax increases on tobacco, Australia has officially become the country in the world with the most expensive cigarettes. What’s more likely to happen is that many vapers who do not want to go back to smoking (or can’t afford to go back to tobacco) and smokers who want to quit, will turn to the black market.

In countries where vaping is banned (and even here in Australia), many vapers who cannot source their nicotine e-liquids properly will turn to the black market in the form of Instagram posts, underground forums, and even word of mouth. And what does this mean? Instead of properly regulating vape products and earning revenue for the government, illegal operations will reap the benefit of smuggling in vape products.

It’s all well and good if the price was the only problem. But what about quality? Without real regulation in the black and gray markets, people will be forced to purchase and consume e-liquids of questionable sources. Remember what happened about a year ago with the wave of unexplained lung disease that was attributed to bootleg cartridges that contained vitamin e acetate? Without proper regulation and the proliferation of a black market, we can expect something like that to happen in Australia, but on a much wider scale. Gone will be the e-liquid manufacturers of care about the purity and quality of their product. They will be replaced by unscrupulous traders who will do anything just to profit off of the needs (in this case, nicotine addiction) of others.  

We could also see the rise in unlabeled nicotine e-liquid bottles being imported into the country and causing accidental nicotine exposure. Since e-liquid with zero nicotine is still allowed, manufacturers may omit marking their products with nicotine levels which may inadvertently expose those who vape without nicotine to various levels of nicotine, essentially defeating the purpose in the first place.

Instead of products being properly marked when they’re brought into the country, it will become a game of hide and go seek where the Australian government will probably spend millions of dollars screening and checking every package of e-liquid coming into the country for possible nicotine content, a real waste of time, resources, and manpower.

I can think of a dozen more problems that a nicotine import ban can cause and not one single REAL reason to ban it as far as smokers and vapers are concerned.

Final Thoughts

To sum everything up, I think a quote from Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, the chairman of ATHRA, says it all, “It is immoral and unscientific to ban a far safer alternative to smoking, while allowing widespread access to lethal cigarettes which kill up to two-in-three long-term users”.


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