Claims that legalising vaping would improve the health of Tasmanians and boost the economy have been labelled “insane” by researchers.
Saving lives, creating jobs and reducing health care costs were among the benefits listed in the Tasmania Vaping Industry Economic Impact Assessment, release by the Australian Retail Vaping Industry Association earlier this week.
However, Dr Kathryn Barnsley – a University of Tasmania researcher and the convenor of Smoke Free Tasmania – said the suggestion of legalising vaping in the context of COVID-19 was irresponsible.
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“We know the World Health Organisation has concerns about smokers and vapers,” she said.
“Myself and others have also published research expressing concerns about vaping in the context of COVID, for two reasons.
“Firstly, people are much more likely to become seriously ill and to die if they are smokers and it’s probable that applies to vapers as well, from what we have seen.
“The other issue we have in Tasmania is we have an older population, a more obese population and a higher smoking rate. All of those factors means our population is much more vulnerable.
“So to introduce yet another addictive drug, which damages lungs, into the community at this time in the middle of a pandemic, is nothing short of insane.”
The ARVIA report pointed to evidence from Public Health England which declared vaping as being 95 per cent less harmful than tobacco.
However, Tasmanian research published last year in the European Respiratory Journal of Open Research showed vaping was just as harmful to a person’s health as cigarettes.
The business push to legalise vaping products with nicotine was also dismissed by the state government, who have introduced tighter measures around the use, promotion and sale of e-cigarettes.
However, Dr Barnsley said stronger measures were needed.
“If these products were regulated by the FDA in the United States or by Therapeutic Goods Administration in Australia … if they were prepared to put their product through that process to have them tested for safety, then we would have absolutely no objection to them being made legal,” she said.
“The problem is there is 8000 of these products with numbers of additives and they’re avoiding regulations.
“The other thing we know is they are putting more flavouring into these products. So it’s a gateway to smoking, particularly for younger people.”
Peak health bodies including the Australian Medical Association and Royal Australian College of General Practitioners have long argued there is no such thing as safe tobacco use, with concerns over the quality of imported nicotine solutions and the way they’re marketed.
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