Posted on April 23, 2023 By Colin
HEALTHCANADA HAS UPDATED ITS ADVICE ON VAPING to reflect the latest scientific evidence and supports of vaping as a quitting aid for adult smokers. In stark contrast, advice from Australia’s health department remains out of date, discourages vaping and continues to mislead the public.
In 2018, nicotine vapes were made an adult consumer product in Canada, and are sold widely from vape shops, convenience stores, petrol stations and online. The Canadian Tobacco and Vaping Products Act was reviewed last year and government advice was updated on the HealthCanada website in February 2023.
The contrast with Australian policy is striking. Australia’s position is increasingly misinformed and is not based on the latest evidence
Australia’s prescription-only approach has created a thriving black market, selling unregulated products to youth and adults.
The inaccurate advice on vaping by Australian authorities is out-of-step with other western countries. HealthCanada's advice is very similar to the accurate information provided in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
CanadaHealth states that “vaping nicotine can help adults quit smoking” and “may help a greater proportion of people quit smoking than nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) or counselling alone. This is based on feedback from vapers, academics, public health groups and industry and the scientific evidence.
In total contrast, Australia’s Health Department states “there is insufficient evidence to promote the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation”. This advice is plain wrong
The 2022 Cochrane Review states that "‘there is high-certainty evidence that e-cigarettes with nicotine increase quit rates compared to NRT". This conclusion is supported by evidence from UK stop smoking services, observational studies, population studies and declines in national smoking rates. See here for more.
The key question for smokers is “relative risk” - whether vaping is safer than smoking. HealthCanada states “researchers have already established that switching completely to vaping nicotine is less harmful than continuing to smoke”, based on the findings that smokers who switch
This is because “vaping products produce only a small fraction of the chemicals found in tobacco smoke, as well as lower levels of some of the potentially harmful ones”. They acknowledge that “the long-term risks of inhaling these substances are unknown and continue to be researched”. More about safety here.
Australia’s Health Department simply says that “scientists do not consider them safe” and that “hazardous substances have been found in e-cigarette liquid”. They state “many scientists are concerned that using e-cigarettes could increase risk of lung disease, heart disease and cancer”.
While this is technically correct, it is unhelpful and very misleading. Smokers should be informed that vapour has only a tiny fraction of the chemicals in smoke and that switching will dramatically reduce their risk of death and serious disease
EVALI (E-cigarette Vaping Associated Lung Injury) is a serious lung disease caused by vaping unregulated, black market tetrahydrocannabinol (THC)-containing vaping products that contained Vitamin E acetate. No cases of EVALI have been found to be caused by nicotine vaping. See our article here for more.
Australia’s health department incorrectly warns that anyone who vapes is potentially at-risk of EVALI and this 2019 advice is 3 years old. A submission by health experts to the Chief Medical Officer to update this misinformation in 2019 was ignored.
HealthCanada correctly states that “During the transition from cigarettes to nicotine vapes, people may experience a period of using both products – this is known as dual-use. Only quit vaping when you are confident that you will not relapse to smoking”.
In other words, dual use is a temporary stage for many smokers when switching and many go on to exclusive vaping. More about dual use here.
Australia’s Health Department completely misunderstands dual use. It says that dual use it is not a safe way to improve health and (incorrectly) states “Dual users maybe exposing themselves to even higher levels of toxicants compared to people who solely use conventional tobacco products” when the evidence shows most dual users smoke fewer cigarettes and substantially reduce toxicant exposure.
The Canadian review states “Australia has maintained a highly restrictive regulatory framework that differs from other countries”.
Australian policy is misleading and is discourages smokers from switching from deadly cigarettes. It has created a thriving black market which has led to skyrocketing youth sales of dodgy, unregulated products
We recently published a peer-reviewed guide on how vaping should be regulated. The sooner this model is introduced, the sooner Australian smokers will have legal access to regulated vape products for quitting and the sooner the youth vaping debacle will be controlled.
Risks of vaping. Health Canada 2023
Report of the first Legislative review of the Tobacco and Vaping Products Act 2022. HealthCanada 2023
What we heard reducing youth access and appeal of vaping products. HealthCanada Dec 2019
Update on vaping in Canada. Dr John's blog. 4 April 2023
About e-cigarettes. Aust Gov, Dept of Health and Aged Care
E-cigarettes linked to severe lung illness. Chief Medical Officer, Sept 2019