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Government officials misleading the Australian public on vaping needs to end

Posted on September 18, 2019

A recent statement by Australia's Chief Medical Officer and State and Territory Chief Health Officers, ‘E-cigarettes linked to severe lung illness’ is alarmist, potentially misleading and does not accurately reflect the current scientific evidence on vaping, a group of 31 leading health professionals has announced today.

The announcement led by the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) said that the statement implies ‘vaping for smoking cessation’ has contributed to the outbreak of severe respiratory illness in the US. (full critique available here)

Foundation Chairman of ATHRA Conjoint Professor Colin Mendelsohn said

"the outbreak is almost exclusively caused by illicit, street purchased THC (cannabis) oils contaminated with vitamin E acetate"

“There has not been a single case linked to 'vaping for smoking cessation' and it is important to differentiate that from the use of illicit drugs and their harmful effects,” Professor Mendelsohn said.

“This outbreak has only occurred in parts of the US, mainly in young men which is the typical pattern of an outbreak of bad batch of illicit drugs. Yet 40-50 million people of all ages in dozens of countries have been vaping nicotine for at least 10 years without any similar cases occurring. These observations alone suggest that vaping nicotine is most unlikely to be the cause of this outbreak. “

Emeritus Consultant at St Vincents’ Hospital Alcohol and Drug Service, Darlinghurst Sydney, Dr Alex Wodak AM said the statement by the Chief Medical and Health Officers raises concerns about other potential risks from vaping. However, risks need to be quantified or compared to a benchmark to be meaningful.

“Low doses of toxic chemicals are only a risk to human health if the dose is sufficient to cause harm. The risk from vaping is only a tiny fraction of the risk of continuing to smoke"

"Up to two out of every three smokers die from a smoking related condition,” Dr Wodak said.

“The warning focuses only on the potential risks of vaping and fails to consider the huge potential public health benefits. Modelling studies have shown that the net impact of vaping is to save many lives, even after potential risks have been taken into account. Vaping is the most popular and, according to some studies, the most effective way of quitting smoking. It has already begun to disrupt the tobacco industry like nothing else has before.”

The statement does not recognise the role of vaping for Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR). THR aims to reduce (not eliminate) harm for smokers who cannot quit by substituting a lower-risk product for combustible tobacco. The only alternative to vaping for many addicted smokers is just to continue smoking. There are 19,000 deaths from smoking-related illness in Australia each year. There has not been one death from vaping nicotine liquid.

“By misleading the public about vaping, this guidance will cost Australian lives. Misinformed and frightened vapers may return to deadly smoking and other smokers may not make the switch to the safer product,” Professor Mendelsohn said.

“Australia’s smoking rates have stagnated since 2013. Australians need new and effective strategies to help smokers quit. Australia remains the only western democracy to ban the sale and use of nicotine for vaping.”

Australian smokers can get much more helpful and evidence-based advice about vaping from the New Zealand Ministry of Health and from Public Health England here.

Instead of a blanket warning to avoid vaping, a more nuanced, evidence-based approach would be more helpful to Australians, such as:

  • The healthiest option is not to smoke or vape
  • Don’t start vaping if you don’t already smoke
  • Adult smokers who are unable to quit smoking with conventional treatments can consider vaping nicotine as a short-term quitting aid or as a long-term safer substitute for smoking
  • If you vape, it is important to quit smoking completely
  • Street drugs should be avoided at all costs. Illicit products are often contaminated, have unknown ingredients and no quality control

E-cigarettes linked to severe lung illness. Statement from the Chief Medical Officer and State and Territory Chief Health Officers about e-cigarettes and an emerging link between their use and lung disease. 13 September 2019

A critique of ‘E-cigarettes linked to severe lung illness’ by 31 leading health professionals. 18 September 2019

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14 Replies to “Government officials misleading the Australian public on vaping needs to end”


I was smoker for 35 years and have been vaping for 2 years now and will never go back to cigarettes,,vaping saved me and many other people from all the dangers of cigarettes , i am amazed that our government want to ban vaping and not one of them say anything about banning cigarettes..and we all know why that is and thats the money they get from extremely high taxes on cigarettes and big tobacco pay off , they dont care about our health at all it has nothing to do with why they want vaping banned it's disgraceful that they allow smoking to continue knowing they will kill tens of thousands of people here in Australia every year . vaping works and works well do the right thing and ban the product and that is cigarettes i say that knowing the government will not ban cigarettes


I totally agree with everything you have said. The government is not looking out for our health, more interested in the tax they receive from the sale of cigarettes and tobacco.
I am 75 years old and smoked from the age of 15. I changed over to vaping about 3 years ago and haven't looked back. I am an adult and should be able to make my own decisions. I am not responsible for the amount of young people vaping.


How is this even remotely believable what so ever. What an embarrassment for the AMA to release something with complete fear mongering statements and blatant lies. Where is the truth ? Its not here.
The REST of the world and also the majority of people in Australia already know the 7 cases of lung disease and death were caused by illegal THC cartridges. None of the cases were caused by using E-cigarettes as a smoking cessation in the typical correct way using nicotine. Vaping has also been on the rapid incline for over 10 years, with MILLIONS of people vaping around the planet in every country. We have seen zero related lung disease or death and quite the literal opposite. Reports of repaired lung damage after switching from smoking, reports of asthma conditions near-gone. Yet here we are , September 18, 2019 and the AMA releases more "fear / lies" to the public. Shame on you all.


Editor's note.
Although the article refers to a statement by the Chief Medical Officer and State and Territory Chief Health Officers, a similar statement was issued by the Australian Medical Association todaye:


This is just another desperate claim by a Government addicted to nicotine money from cigarettes. They know how easy it is for people to import nicotine liquid and the actual ecigs to vape the liquid, so the chances of them being able to make anywhere near the money they do from tobacco sales is reduced. They do not care about our health, they make billions of dollars from cigarette sales but only spend a fraction of that towards healthcare. I believe that individuals using their position of power to spout lies that will ultimately lead to the deaths of tens of thousands of people should be held accountable, even to the point of being held criminally responsible. That will never happen because the people required to make it happen are the same greedy ones that stand to lose out on all that tobacco money.

Deb Downes

Seems obvious to me:
1. No outbreak of #VapingIllness in the UK, where vaping has been around, and regulated for a decade, possibly more

2. Outbreak occurs in the US where, in some states, Cannabis is legal in some states, and there is a blackmarket supply of dubious quality.

Why are “Government Officials” NOT being responsible?

Phillip Schofield

Would suggest this is a campain by big tobacco to maintain market share


I have vaped for 5 years, I smoked for 23 years until i made the change. Since then my oral health, repitory health, and dietary health has improved. I can smell more, taste more so no salt and less flavour enhancemets/condiments on my food. I also eat less sweets (which i ate too many of) due to the variety of flavors that are available in e liquid.
Its very important to my new 😀 that vaping information is not adulterated by corporate needs or back handed polices so that i may be healthier and of less expense to the nations health system.
The main reason I smoked and nowwhy I vape is to assist in the maintenace of my mental health.
Please keep up the good work ATHRA

Denny Wellard

I have been vaping for 1.5 years now and have successfully given up cigarettes. I was a smoker for 20 years and I had tried everything to give up.. Vaping was the only thing to to get me off the smokes, my health was deteriorating and i was in line for a massive heart attack amongst many other health conditions. I am now smoke free and my health have improved 1000% I can breath better, I am way more healthy and I am also using vaping to control my sugar cravings too.

I with my partner Brad own a vape shop on the Gold Coast and the only reason we started this venture is to help others make the change to vaping and share our story.

THANK YOU ATHRA for helping us fight the fight…


Josh Rockman

Are you guys making yourselves available to tv stations to discuss this issue? Australia needs a front person who can champion the industry. I’m seeing American people interviewed on Aussie programs that are spreading fear and misinformation. The lady from Yale on the ABC’s Planet America (Sat 21st Sept) was so incorrect on so many claims…drives me crazy!


Hi Josh, Yes we are. You can see some of our recent media activities here in our latest newsletter


Hi Colin, I just watched the videos via the links. You are doing a great job getting the right message out there. It breaks my heart seeing main stream media demonise vaping.

Lorna Watson

Just how utterly stupid do the Australian Government think we are? They will never allow the sale of nicotine for vaping in Australia, and now there's a frenzy of anti-vaping media and we're supposed to believe its because they are concerned about our health? Yeah, right. Governments, the tobacco industry and big pharma are all scratching each others backs. It's outrageous. The misinformation being reported everywhere is scandalous. Shame on you AMA. Tell the truth.


I smoked for 24 years and quit with the help of vaping. I’ve now been vaping for 12 years and haven’t had any of the respiratory problems that used to trouble me. I enjoy vaping and had no intention of giving it up. Seems that it’s going to be forced on me.

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