The Queensland government sinks to a new low – vaping report

Posted on May 28, 2023 By Colin

THE QUEENSLAND GOVERNMENT has sunk to a new level of misinformation and scaremongering in its latest attempt to demonise vaping.

The government laboratories tested seventeen black market vaping products and made unjustified and exaggerated claims, with the Premier saying that the results are staggering and that vaping is no safer than smoking. Read the report here.

This report provides no useful information and simply seeks to alarm and mislead the public and promote the Queensland anti-vaping agenda

The report was followed by a flood of sensational articles in the media about the "terrifying health crisis" which exaggerate the supposed harms of vaping further: here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here, to name just a few.

"The dose makes the poison"

The main flaw in this report is that it does not measure the amount of the chemicals claimed to be harmful except nicotine, so it is unable to claim that there is any evidence of harm.

The eight chemicals banned under Australian standards are measured and all are found to be at low, acceptable levels if present at all.

The mere presence of a chemical does not indicate a risk to health. A risk is only present if the dose of a chemical exceeds an established safety threshold

This principle was established by Paracelsus in the 16th Century and still holds true.

The Health Minister's claim that these unmeasured chemicals are “extremely dangerous” is unscientific and totally unjustified.

There are small doses of many toxins in the air we breathe, in drinking water and in coffee.  Lead, arsenic, mercury and cadmium are found in baby foods but these are harmless at low doses.

Furthermore, vapers do not ingest e-liquids. The real risk assessment requires quantifying compounds in the aerosols and measuring toxin levels in the body (biomarkers).

Toxins in vaping aerosol are in negligible quantities, in most cases well below exposures from other household aerosols, such as cooking and candles. Furthermore, biomarkers are mostly low, often at the level of the non-user.

However, the fear mongering didn't stop there. The report went on to outline all the potential harms of the chemicals tested, even though none had been shown to be at harmful levels! For example stating, "A number of these heavy metals are known to be carcinogenic, mutagenic, toxic to reproduction and development and cause neurological anomalies."

“Staggering amounts of nicotine”

The report makes the amazing finding that black market vapes contain nicotine (which we already knew) but wrongly describes the levels of nicotine as "staggering" without any evidence.

The quantity of nicotine in the devices was not measured and the nicotine concentrations are the same as those in most regulated disposables and pod devices

Of course these products should not contain nicotine and should be labelled to indicate that they do. Welcome to the black market!

To make the numbers sound larger the report measures nicotine in an unconventional and incorrect way, in milligrams per kilogram (mg/kg) instead of the correct units of milligrams per millilitre (mg/mL). Levels of 12,000 to 47,000 mg/kg sound much scarier than the same concentrations in mg/mL, ie 12 to 47 mg/mL.

Alarmist and emotional language

The press release attempts to frighten uninformed citizens by saying that some of the chemicals are also found in paints, pharmaceuticals and refrigerants.

This is emotional and unscientific nonsense. The presence of a chemical in a toxic product (such as paint) does not indicate that the chemical itself is toxic

Black market products

All the products tested are illegal Chinese imports smuggled into Australia and sold on the black market. Like other illicit products, there is no quality or safety control and people use them at their own risk.

Importantly, these products are not regulated and any findings cannot be extrapolated to legitimate, regulated vaping products

These products are available to children because of the federal government's harsh restrictions on vaping have created a black market selling dodgy products with no quality control or age restrictions.

The solution is to regulate the market properly as outlined here.

Message to the Queensland Government

This is not good enough. There is no place for fear and dishonest communication from an elected government.

Nicotine vaping products are not-risk free, and of course they should not be used by underage non-smokers.

However, the misleading messaging in this report will only contribute to the fear and misinformation about vaping, a lifesaving quitting aid for smokers.

To the extent that it discourages smokers from switching from deadly cigarettes to vaping it is likely to be harmful to public health

Shame on you!


Assessment of e-liquid composition, for the Queensland Government, Health & Environment Committee 

Media report. Vaping: results are in. 27 May 2023

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