TGA Decision could cost millions of Australians $6000 a year
The following article was published in on news.com.au today by Joe Hildebrand. Visit the article online here.
A FEDERAL government decision that was quietly slipped through last month could potentially cost millions of people more than $6,000 a year — and it’s the poor who will be the hardest hit.
That’s how much a typical smoker could save if they switched to e-cigarettes but the Therapeutic Goods Administration last month ruled to keep the quitting devices illegal.
The revelation comes as a new study finds that financially stressed smokers are often going without meals rather than cigarettes and that the more smokers are driven into poverty the less likely they are to quit.
There are around 2.6 million daily smokers in Australia, according to the latest Australian Bureau of Statistics figures — almost 15 per cent of the adult population. And they are overwhelmingly concentrated in poorer areas.
Official figures collated and published on the Department of Health’s own website show people in the poorest areas of Australia are three times more likely to smoke daily than people in high socio-economic areas — almost 20 per cent compared with just 6.7 per cent.
The rate among Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people is almost 40 per cent.
Tobacco Treatment Specialist Dr Colin Mendelsohn from the University of NSW School of Public Health has calculated that a pack-a-day smoker on 20 cigarettes a day spends $7,300 a year on cigarettes — with that number increasing by 12.5 per cent each year in tobacco taxes.
By contrast Associate Professor Mendelsohn assesses the typical cost of “vaping” or using nicotine e-cigarettes for the same period would be $1,150 per year — an annual saving of $6,150 for every smoker who switched.
Scientific studies have also found that vaping is 95 per cent safer than smoking but the TGA last month upheld a rule banning liquid nicotine — even though cigarettes riddled with deadly cancer-causing substances are still freely available at every supermarket and corner store.
“So vaping is at least 85 per cent less expensive than smoking and 95 per cent safer. You will be richer and healthier if you make the switch to vaping,” Associate Professor Mendelsohn told news.com.au.
“To me, that’s a no brainer.”
The analysis comes just days after an academic study published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health found that driving up cigarette prices actually made it harder for poor people to quit.
“For those smokers that continue to smoke in the face of rising cigarette prices, experiences of financial stress are likely to be exacerbated and we know that financially stressed smokers are less likely to quit,” the paper said.
Poorer smokers were also twice as hard hit as non-smokers in key measures of disadvantage.
“In particular, smokers are twice as likely as ex- and non-smokers experiencing hardship to go without meals or to pawn or sell their belongings due to a shortage of money.”
In fact, the Australian-led study found smoking is so closely linked to poverty that welfare groups should focus on providing quitting services.
“Given that individuals experiencing social and financial disadvantage are likely to engage with social and community service organisations, smoking cessation should be incorporated as part of the core business in this sector.”
Associate Professor Mendelsohn is one of a large group of scientists, doctors and academics who are flummoxed by the Australian government’s zero-tolerance approach to vaping, which is at odds with overseas countries such as the UK, the US, Canada, New Zealand and the EU.
The UK Centre for Neuropsychopharmacology’s Professor David Nutt, from the Imperial College London, who is also President of the European Brain Council, described last month’s TGA ruling as “perplexing and disturbing”.
“No explanation for this inexplicable preferential treatment for the cigarette supply chain is offered, and, in our view, no justification is possible,” he said ahead of a visit to Australia last week.
“Millions of Europeans report that they have used e-cigarettes to quit smoking. Why do authorities in Australia wish to deny that option to Australians?”
The TGA and Health Department had not responded to news.com.au’s request for comment by the time of publication.blog comments powered by Disqus