Could Australia Legalize Nicotine for Vaping?

A proposal to the government has opened the door


Nicotine is legal cigarettes

Nicotine Structure

Things might be looking up for vapers in Australia. A proposal to the government to allow nicotine in e-cigarettes is being considered by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). The proposal was made by the New Nicotine Alliance Australia (NNA), a non-profit group that advocates for vapor and other low-risk nicotine products. It would make nicotine of up to 3.6 percent legal.

“It is ludicrous to ban a product that the UK’s Department of Health and the UK Royal College of Physicians have concluded is at least 95 percent safer than smoking while deadly tobacco cigarettes can be purchased at any corner shop or petrol station in Australia”, said NNA spokesperson Donna Darvill in a press release.

“The use of nicotine in electronic cigarettes has the potential for huge improvements in public health in Australia,” added Darvill. “Studies from overseas have shown that millions of smokers have now switched from burning tobacco to vaping. In fact, electronic cigarettes are now used more than any other method for reducing the harm from tobacco smoking in the UK, including nicotine patches.”

It’s absurd that the only generally-available legal access to nicotine is by way of deadly tobacco smoking

“The UK’s Royal College of Physicians recently concluded that ‘in the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking.’ This cannot be ignored by the Commonwealth Department of Health,” said NNA president Dr. Attila Danko.

“Some people have raised concerns that electronic cigarettes with nicotine will act as a gateway to smoking in young people, but there is no good evidence for this,” said Danko. “Last week, Cancer Research UK stated that “the overwhelming majority of e-cigarette users, also referred to as vapers, are current or ex-smokers, and use by non-smokers and children is extremely low”.

“It’s absurd that the only generally-available legal access to nicotine is by way of deadly tobacco smoking”, stated Darvill. ”Keeping nicotine-containing vaping devices illegal deprives many thousands of Australian smokers a safer alternative to burning tobacco. New Zealand’s Ministry of Health announced its intention to legalise nicotine for electronic cigarettes this week. Australia risks the embarrassment of falling behind New Zealand if the Commonwealth Department of Health does not legalise low-strength nicotine solutions for use in electronic cigarettes.”

The quit-or-die guys weigh in

Australia’s abstinence-only dynamic duo disagrees, of course. Simon Chapman and Mike Daube were quick to raise all the usual objections. Former University of Sydney professor Chapman suggested Big Tobacco companies would be quick to pounce on the Australian market.”They will receive a large number of totally commercially driven submissions from people who see this as an opportunity to make a lot of money,” Chapman told the Australian Associated Press (AAP). According to Chapman, the tobacco industry uses harm reduction as a ploy to continue marketing cigarettes.

Chapman also raised the question of whether vaping could act as a gateway to smoking, citing the small-sample studies in California that have been widely scoffed at by serious researchers. Never one to miss a chance at fear-mongering, he also suggested to AAP that vaping could “become a crutch preventing smokers from quitting altogether.”

Curtin University professor Mike Daube jumped in to emphasize fears of renormalizing smoking. “Smoking trends in Australia are as good as anywhere in the world and we have to be very careful that we don’t allow anything to distract us from the measures that are proven to reduce smoking,” Daube told AAP.

Vapers: have your say

Just Say No

The TGA is asking for comments by September 1. Suggested topics to address are:

  • Suggested improvements
  • Whether or not you support the amendment. If you do not support the amendment/s, you may make suggestions for an alternative acceptable to you
  • An assessment of how the proposed change will impact on you. That is, what do you see as the likely benefits or costs to you (these may be financial or non-financial). If possible, please attempt to quantify these costs and benefitsAll submissions should be accompanied by a TGA submission coversheet.Submissions must include full personal or organisational contact details (including address, telephone number and email). Electronic submissions are preferred and should be emailed to [email protected] (link sends e-mail). Please include ‘Proposed Amendments to the Poisons Standard (Medicines)’ in the subject line of the email.

Rally in Victoria

The NNA is supporting a lunchtime rally at the Victorian Parliament on August 16. “The rally will highlight the consumer demand for this powerful harm reduction initiative which has the potential to save hundreds of thousands of Australian lives,” said Dr. Danko. “Thousands of Australian vapers need their voices to be heard.”

Jim McDonald
I spend most of my time studying the regulatory, legislative and scientific challenges to vaping, advocating for our right to exist, and talking with others who do the same. Consider me a source for information, and feel free to agree or disagree with anything I say. I love good coffee and sweet Michigan cherries. My childhood hero was Gordie Howe.