The evidence is clear: vaping is far safer than smoking, and vaping is a much more effective quitting aid than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. But many regulators and key stakeholders remain unconvinced. In this episode, Colin Mendelsohn discusses his recent review exploring the evidence behind vaping and the way forward for nicotine in Australia.
Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 1:08 - Colin Mendelsohn discusses the way forward for vaping in Australia 2:42 - Youth vaping: beyond the headlines 4:00 - Australian vaping model needs replacing 4:46 - Closing remarks
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Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Last week, four leading Australian smoking, addiction and high reduction experts sent a comprehensive review of the latest evidence on nicotine vaping to all Australian federal, state and territory members of Parliament. The document titled Evidence Review of Nicotine Vaping Recommendations for Regulation in Australia outlines the health effects of vaping, its effectiveness as a quitting aid, youth vaping, and some of the common myths about vaping. The authors also make evidence-based recommendations on how to regulate vaping for the best public health outcomes. Dr Colin Mendelsohn, one of the authors of the review, summarised the key findings of this document. Let's hear what he said.
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Colin Mendelsohn: Well, the media is full of alarming claims about vaping and it's no wonder that the public and the policy makers are confused. We've recently reviewed the scientific evidence on vaping to help guide evidence-based policymaking. My co-authors were Dr Alex Wodak, Emeritus Professor Wayne Hall and Professor Ron Borland, who are all leading Australian addiction, tobacco and harm reduction experts. And this is what we found. Firstly, vaping is not risk-free, but it's far less harmful than smoking. And this is because vapour contains only a small fraction of the chemicals in tobacco smoke and in much lower concentrations. We won't know for some time the precise long-term risks of vaping, but it's highly likely that it will be considerably less than the risks of smoking. Secondly, vaping is a more effective quitting aid than nicotine patches and gum. It's at least as effective as the most effective stop-smoking pill - varenicline. And because of its effectiveness and popularity, vaping is playing an important role in the rapid decline in smoking rates in countries where it's widely available, such as in New Zealand and in the UK. Thirdly, youth vaping. Studies show that frequent vaping by non-smokers is rare, typically 1-2%. Most vaping by non-smokers is infrequent and short term and causes relatively minor health risks. But for young people who smoke or who would have smoked, vaping is a far healthier alternative. Contrary to popular belief, there's no good evidence that vaping is a gateway to smoking. In fact, vaping is diverting young people away from smoking and lowering smoking rates on a large scale. We also examined some of the common myths about vaping. Although nicotine is addictive, it's relatively harmless with normal use. It doesn't cause cancer or lung disease and only has a minor role in cardiovascular disease. Vaping nicotine does not cause popcorn lung or the serious lung condition known as EVALI. Vaping is not a sinister plot by Big Tobacco to addict a new generation. In reality, it's a huge disruptive threat to the tobacco industry. Regulation should have a dual purpose. Firstly, to ensure that regulated nicotine vaping products are easily available to help adult smokers quit. And secondly, to minimise access and appeal to young people. Australia's prescription model has failed to achieve either of these goals. The preferred approach is a tightly regulated consumer model with vapes sold as adult consumer products by licensed retail outlets, with strict age verification, like cigarettes and alcohol. Regulations should be proportionate to risk, reflecting the lower harms of vaping relative to smoking. Please read our report, which is available from the link in the following graphic.