Vaping could reduce Australian smoking rates and save lives. Study

Posted on September 9, 2022 By Colin

RELAXING AUSTRALIA'S HARSH REGULATIONS on vaping could save the lives of 70,000 - 104,000 Australians by 2080 and prevent untold suffering.

These were the findings of a modelling study published today in Nicotine and Tobacco Research which estimates the public health benefit of relaxing the harsh, restrictive laws on vaping nicotine in Australia. The study was conducted by leading Australian researchers A/Prof Coral Gartner and Professor Ron Borland and an elite team of US researchers led by Professor David Levy.

The impact of vaping is based on making vaping as widely and legally accessible in Australia as it is in the US. It uses Australian data where available, but also bases some calculations on US data where it is not.

The study includes the health benefits for daily smokers switching to vaping as well as any increase in harm from vaping in those who would never have smoked.

Harm from vaping

The population impact of switching to vaping is based on a range of estimates of the risk of vaping compared to smoking.

If vaping is 5% of the long-term risk of smoking [estimated by the UK Royal College of Physicians], 104,000 Australian lives will be saved by 2080 and over 2 million years of lost life will be prevented.

If vaping is (a very unlikely) 40% of the risk of smoking, 70,000 smoking-related deaths will be prevented and 1.2 million years of lost life prevented.

Australia’s smoking targets

The Australia government has set a modest goal of <10% daily adult daily smoking by 2025 and <5% by 2030 but the study shows that this will be missed by a wide margin. The New Zealand target is 5% by 2025.

Under the current vaping regulations, the national smoking rate will only reach 7.5% for males in 2080 and 5% for females in 2064.

With relaxed vaping laws, a 5% target for men will be reached in 2042 and for females in 2036.

As well as vaping, further additional tobacco control policies are needed to reach the target. These could include mass media campaigns, reducing the nicotine in cigarettes to non-addictive levels, reducing the number of retail outlets selling cigarettes and providing further smoking cessation services.

Time to act

The impact could be even greater if Australian governments, health and medical organisations supported and encouraged vaping, as they do in the UK and New Zealand. Improvements in vaping technology are also likely to make vaping more effective. The benefits would also be greater if non-daily smokers were included.

Australia’s outdate regulations on vaping need to change urgently. The evidence for vaping is now convincing and modelling indicates that easy access to nicotine for vaping could save the lives of substantial numbers of smokers. What are we waiting for?


Levy DT. The Australia Smoking and Vaping Model: The Potential Impact of Increasing Access to Nicotine Vaping Products. Nicotine and Tobacco Research. September 2022

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