Health Minister urged to maintain firm stance on e-cigarettes

13 September 2019

In a presentation to the WA State Environmental Health Australia Conference today in Fremantle, the Australian Council on Smoking and Health urged Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt to maintain his stance of a precautionary approach to e-cigarettes in Australia.

“Strong evidence is accumulating that using e-cigarettes can have serious immediate health effects including respiratory disease and cardiovascular disease. And there is growing concern about their effects on health,” said Maurice Swanson, Chief Executive, Australian Council on Smoking and Health.

It is illegal in Australia to sell nicotine for use in e-cigarettes because nicotine is classified as a Schedule 7 poison. In Western Australia, it is illegal to sell any e-cigarette device that resembles a tobacco product.

There is little evidence that e-cigarettes are effective in assisting smokers to quit.

There is also alarming evidence from the United States and Canada that the marketing and availability of e-cigarettes has resulted in an epidemic of use among young people.

“The use of e-cigarettes by middle school students in the US increased by 48%, and in high school students by 78% comparing 2017 and 2018.

The most recent survey from the US shows that 27.5% of teenagers are using e-cigarettes, which is immensely concerning, so much so that President Trump is seeking to ban e-cigarette flavours.

“Canada has also recently allowed the marketing of Juul e-cigarettes, and published survey data shows that for the first time in 30 years, the youth smoking rate has increased in Canada, with e-cigarettes being the likely cause.

“Despite having stricter regulations, the latest Australian survey shows that in 2017, 48% of students aged 12 to 17 years-old who had used e-cigarettes (13% of the total sample) reported they had never smoked a tobacco cigarette before.

“These findings add to other convincing evidence that e-cigarettes are an on-ramp to the use of traditional cigarettes for children and young people.

“We have standard processes in Australia for the assessment of products that make therapeutic claims, and so far, no e-cigarette manufacturer has provided evidence on the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes as an aid to help smokers quit,” Mr Swanson said.

Australia’s leading independent health advisory bodies, the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) and the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), have concluded that there is insufficient evidence on the safety and efficacy of e-cigarettes to change existing regulations that would make e-cigarettes more freely available.

The Australian Council on Smoking and Health, along with many of Australia’s leading health and medical organisations, strongly believe that current advice on e-cigarettes from the NHMRC and the TGA is appropriate and evidence based.

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Contact: Maurice Swanson, ACOSH Chief Executive, 0401 090 915