Australia’s Tobacco Control Isn’t Controlling Tobacco Usage

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If you’ve read any of my previous articles, you’ll probably have seen me reporting on the state of affairs on Vaping over in Australia. And if you haven’t read any before, I’ll give you an abridged version…it’s an absolute mess over there when it comes to Vaping.

It seems that there is a serious vendetta against Vaping, and numerous restrictions have been imposed on Vaping with the most recent ones pretty much bringing recreational vaping to an end thanks to the stringent and tough restrictions people now face to be able to obtain vape juice that contains nicotine.

Their reasonings for bringing in these restrictions is to be “leaders” on tobacco control, and be role models to other countries, but it’s not really working. Especially when their neighbouring country New Zealand has adopted a polar opposite approach towards tobacco control and vaping, and are seeing quite significant results compared to Australia.

In this blog, I’m going to take a look at what Australia are doing and why it isn’t having the desired effect they hoped, as well as looking at what their neighbours New Zealand are doing and how they are getting things right.

Man Exhaling Vapour from E-Cigarettes

Australia Vs Vaping

We will flick back in time a bit here and go to 2021 which is when the restriction on Vaping in Australia first came about. On October 1st 2021, essentially out of nowhere, the Therapeutic Goods Association announced that effective immediately, anybody that would want to obtain nicotine containing vape juice could only do so after receiving a prescription from a GP and getting it from a pharmacy.

As expected, this caused mass uproar as there wasn’t really any indication of this even suggesting ti would happen, and it was announced with an immediate effect which left people who were relying on nicotine vape juice to keep them from reverting back to smoking high and dry if they hadn’t already got a stockpile of vape juice at hand.

Other forms of Nicotine Replacement Therapy such as nicotine patches, gum, lozenges and sprays were still readily available, it was just nicotine vape juice that got the hammer put down on it and banned from general sale.

A year passed of this ban, and a report was conducted by Colin Mendelsohn who’s a now retired GP, and vaping advocate based in Australia who found that these measures had not worked how the powers that be had hoped, instead causing a complete polar opposite effect.

Illicit vape sales rose to unseen heights, with vapes being imported into the country labelled as “Nicotine Free” when in fact they contained upwards of 50mg Nicotine and these were being sold in corner shops, petrol stations and even by Uber drivers to passengers in a bid to make an extra buck. And to be even more counter productive to their original plans for this ban, youth vaping in Australia hit unprecedented heights during this time, as shops were selling to minors with no age verification checks taking place.

And bringing things up to modern day, there was further restrictions imposed that pretty much indicated the end of recreational vaping as Australians knew it.

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Recreational Vaping Ended By Australian Government

In May 2023, Australian Health Minister Mark Butler made the announcement that plans were in place and would be coming into effect that spelt the end for recreational vaping in Australia.

Using the reasoning that vaping within high schools and amongst youths of Australia had become problematic, the solution to this would be to ban vaping completely and in turn, penalise the adult vapers in the country who are likely ex smokers relying on vaping to stop them from smoking. And of course, this announcement was met with even more uproar than previous, from patrons of the country as well as pro vaping advocate groups around the world as well.

Mr Butler said in his statement:

“Vaping was sold to governments and communities around the world as a therapeutic product to help long-term smokers quit,” Butler said. “It was not sold as a recreational product – in particular not one for our kids. But that is what it has become – the biggest loophole in Australian history.”

Australia do have a goal in mind though, and that is to get a firm grip on Tobacco Control within the country and their way of doing this appears to be cracking down on Vaping, which seems counter productive really considering Vaping can actually help people get off and away from tobacco, so let’s take a look at the smoking rates within Australia and see if Tobacco Control is actually working…

Tobacco Control = No Control?

Australia have started implementing measures to enforce their “Tobacco Control” policies for quite a while now, and they’ve progressively built up over the last 5 years to what they are now. The price of cigarettes in Australia is actually the highest of any other country in the world, with the average price of 20 Marlboro Reds costing $40 Australian Dollars, which is equivalent of around £24, this is almost double what the price of 20 cigarettes is here in the UK, eye watering!

This was imposed to try and discourage people from smoking, and adding additional tax rates of 12.5% on top of the price of cigarettes. This was also coupled with the introduction of plain packaging on cigarettes and tobacco packets, much like what it is here in the United Kingdom. And all of this was adopted as “world leading tobacco control” measures, but the stats have shown that smoking rates in Australia haven’t really declined as they had hoped.

Looking at the last 5 years of statistics, and it shows that adult smoking rates did take a slight dip in 2020 as it did with most other countries as this was during the Covid pandemic and people were afraid of smoking due to the potential risk of causing lung problems on top of what Covid could cause, but it then started creeping up again and at the last publish of statistics, the smoking rates actually sat near enough the same as it was 5 years previous, which makes it seem that the measures they have implemented haven’t really worked.

I mentioned about the measures that other countries have implemented to bring down smoking rates, most notably Australia’s neighbours New Zealand as well as the UK, so let’s take a look at what they’re doing and the statistics on smoking rates in these respective countries.

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New Zealand And United Kingdom Are On The Right Track

New Zealand essentially did the opposite to what Australia have done, and actually legalised Vaping and imposed regulations that were fair and respectful towards vapers in the country back in 2020 after previously being sceptical on the topic and not very forthcoming.

And it’s with these new regulations and more free approach to vaping that then saw smoking rates in New Zealand absolutely plummet from 2020-2022 by over 30% and you can’t help but feel it was the fact that Vaping was met with such open arms by New Zealand and this new approach was taken which in turn saw the numbers decline rather than just plateau and stay the same like what happened next door in Australia.

australia new zealand smoking rates

You’ll know if you’ve read any of my previous articles regarding Vaping and the UK that our Government is firmly behind Vaping and have been for a long time. In 2016, the original declaration was made by the UK Government that Vaping is 95% safer than smoking, it couldn’t be the whole 100% due to the fact that no long term research has been able to be conducted due to Vaping not being around long enough for it to be carried out. And this statement was further lamented in a reported conducted by Cochrane earlier on this year.

To add more confidence in Vaping, our Government also announced the plans to launch the “Stop to Swap” scheme earlier this year which will see 1 Million vapes given out to smokers in a bid to help them quit and make Vaping more accessible to people who may not have been able to afford to lay out the initial costs of getting set up with everything needed.

Statistics also showed last year that the smoking rates amongst adults in the UK have reached the lowest it’s ever been, and in no coincidence, adult vaping rates have hit the highest numbers it’s ever been as well, so what we are doing is working, and what New Zealand is doing is working, so why are Australia so blinkered and unwilling to adopt a new approach drawing inspiration from us and their neighbours I wonder?

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