The Australian Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) recent interim decision to effectively ban nicotine-containing electronic cigarettes has been described by Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, a tobacco treatment specialist who teaches at the University of Sydney, as a harsh blow to smokers.
Writing on theconversation.com, Mendelsohn said Australian smokers would be denied access to life-saving technology that was estimated to have helped millions of overseas smokers quit.
Those most affected would be from lower socio-economic and disadvantaged groups, which had the highest smoking rates and were hardest hit by the cost of smoking.
‘Currently, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are effectively prohibited in Australia,’ Mendelsohn wrote. ‘If the TGA’s interim decision is made final in March 2017, e-cigarette users (or vapers) in Australia will still not be able to buy or import nicotine for vaping without a prescription. Their only legal option would be to ask their doctor for a prescription, which doctors are generally reluctant to provide.
‘If the current ban remains, vapers will still be forced to source nicotine solutions (e-liquids) from an unregulated and illegal black market, placing them at even greater risk. Without regulation, the contents of nicotine refill bottles are a mystery, labels are inaccurate, childproof bottles are not mandated and there is no quality control or manufacturing standard.
‘Other users will buy large quantities of highly concentrated nicotine online and mix their e-liquid at home, with the risk of exposure to children and dosage errors.
‘Meanwhile, vapers who try to quit smoking are branded criminals. The fine for possessing nicotine for vaping in Queensland is up to A$9,108 and the government encourages the public to report any offenders. This fear will lead some vapers to return to smoking.
‘The TGA’s decision also leaves Australia out of step with other similar countries. E-cigarettes with nicotine are legal and available, or are in the process of being legalised, in the United Kingdom, European Union, United States, Canada and New Zealand.
‘Their approach to smoking cessation products is in sharp contrast to policy in Australia, which has missed the opportunity to welcome e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool, and a safer alternative, for smokers. Meanwhile, the most lethal nicotine products, cigarettes, are freely available in Australia and do not need TGA approval.’
Mendelsohn’s full text is here.