Cancer Council Victoria spins good news about vaping into bad news

Posted on October 21, 2022 By Colin

LARGE NUMBERS OF ADULT SMOKERS IN VICTORIA are switching to vaping. This is great news for public health, but Cancer Council Victoria (CCV) spins it as harmful and exaggerates the risk.

In a new report, CCV released data on vaping from the 2022 Victorian Smoking and Health Survey but did not publish the smoking data which are needed to fully interpret the findings. Their press release exaggerates the risks from the uptake of vaping and ignores the huge public health benefits.

1. "Young Victorians aged 18-30 make up the largest proportion of current e-cigarette users (54%)"

CCV is concerned that vaping by young adults is "likely to undo decades of success in tobacco control". In fact, the evidence indicates the opposite. Vaping is replacing deadly smoking for young adults.

High vaping rates in young adults in NSW and in the United States are associated with more quit attempts and rapid declines in smoking, faster than any other age group

Source: Floxon F. Population-level counterfactual trend modelling smoking and ecig use in US adults. BMC Public Health 2022

Vaping is the most popular aid for quitting or reducing smoking in Australia, according to the National Drug Strategy Household Survey, used by 22% of smokers in 2019. However CCV wants smokers to use its very unpopular Quitline which was used by <2% of Australian smokers.

2. "In 2022, 308,827 Victorian adults were currently vaping (monthly or more)"

This is good news, but is presented as a cause for concern. High vaping rates are associated with accelerated quit rates. CCV has not provided the smoking rate, however, it is likely to be declining rapidly as smokers switch from deadly cigarettes to vaping. In spite of barriers created by Australian governments, vaping is Australia’s most popular and most effective quitting method and is replacing deadly smoking.

CEO Dr Sandro Demaio says vaping is a ”very real danger to our community”. He is wrong. Vaping is  a danger to the tobacco industry and its supporters but is a huge benefit to smokers and public health

Many smokers have also switched to vaping and then quit vaping as well. These numbers are not shown in the report.

3.  “Almost one quarter of all Victorian adults currently using e-cigarettes have never smoked”

This 'alarming' headline figure conceals the reality that most never-smokers who vape do so occasionally and for short periods. In Victoria, only 0.8% of never-smokers who currently vape do so weekly or more.

4. "E-cigarettes contain dozens of toxic chemicals. These include formaldehyde and heavy metals, which can cause cancer and damage the brain and lungs"

This disingenuous statement by Dr Demaio is alarmist and misleading. Toxic chemicals are everywhere in the environment. Whether they are harmful depends on the dose. It is well accepted that most of the chemicals in smoke are absent from vapour and those that are present are mostly at very low or trace levels.

Smokers who switch to vaping dramatically reduce their risk of cancer and other smoking-related diseases. Shouldn't CCV be supporting that?

Dr Demaio says "E-cigarettes present a very real danger to our community". He is wrong. They present a danger to those who support the tobacco industry but are good news to smokers and public health.

5. “Only 8.6% of past year e-cigarette users reported that they had a prescription for nicotine”

This is a clear message that the prescription-only model supported by CCV has failed

As predicted by ATHRA, smokers, vapers and doctors have rejected the prescription model and most adult vapers are buying unregulated products illegally from the black market, which also sells freely to children. See my report here.

Over 90% of nicotine vaping products in Victoria are purchased illegally and policing and enforcement by the Victorian Health Department are minimal

The Victorian government could easily solve this problem by changing the Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances Act to make nicotine e-liquid a consumer product, sold from licensed retail premises with severe fines and loss of licence for underage sales. This model is working well in NZ and the UK and allows adult smokers to legally purchase vaping supplies while restricting access to young people.

However, don't expect this obvious solution to be adopted in the near future.


Report: E-cigarette use and purchasing behaviour among Victorian adults. Cancer Council Victoria 20 October 2022

Media release. Rise in Victorian e-cigarette use & purchasing behaviours. Cancer Council Victoria. 20 October 2022

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