Statement from the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) in response to COAG Health Council Communique

The outcomes from today’s COAG Health Council meeting threatens to increase the number of tobacco related deaths and further reduce access by Australian smokers to scientifically proven harm reduction products.

It is deeply concerning that public health officials continue to ignore the growing evidence that clearly shows that nicotine vaping is a far safer alternative to smoking and is helping many smokers to quit. This is nothing more than ideological scaremongering.

Furthermore, statements made by the Minister for Health, Greg Hunt that vaping is a gateway to smoking are false and misleading and need to be called out. There is no evidence that vaping is causing young people to smoke who would not otherwise have done so.

That fact remains that Australia is still the only western democracy to ban the sale and use of nicotine for vaping. Smoking rates in Australia have stalled since 2013 and smoking claims the lives of more than 21,000 Australians each year. Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia.

In contrast, smoking rates are falling faster than ever in countries such as the UK and US where vaping is a central part of their quit smoking strategy. Vaping is a far safer alternative for smokers who are unable to quit with conventional treatments and is actively encouraged by the UK and New Zealand governments. It is perplexing that Australia remains the only western democracy to deny smokers a far safer alternative.

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