Posted on September 1, 2023 By Colin
THE QUEENSLAND PARLIAMENTARY INQUIRY into vaping has failed to provide a balanced and evidence-based report and is a huge missed opportunity for public health. The flawed outcomes and recommendations were foregone conclusions, as I predicted in an earlier blog.
An Inquiry is only as good as the evidence presented to it. Most of what the committee heard from Australian health and medical organisations was predicably false and so, inevitably, were its conclusions
The Inquiry drew heavily on the flawed reports of the NHMRC and Emily Banks from the Australian National University. There was no mention of the harsh peer-reviewed critiques of both these reports by leading Australian and international experts, here and here.
The Queensland Chief Health Officer was an influential source of misinformation. Dr Gerrard sees vaping as an “extraordinary public health disaster”.
Contrary to the clear evidence, the Report took the false and alarmist view that e-cigarettes pose “serious risks to the health of individuals” and concluded that there is “insufficient clinical evidence about how effective e-cigarettes are as a smoking cessation tool”.
In contrast, the evidence indicates that vaping is only a fraction of the risk of smoking and there is now high quality evidence that vaping is an effective quitting aid.
It was no surprise that the Committee found that
Of greatest concern is the Report’s support for Mark Butler’s plan to crack down harder on the current failed regulations that have been rejected by vapers and doctors. Legal access is almost impossible for adult smokers. Criminal gangs have taken control of the market. Enforcement agencies admit they are unable to intercept the flood of illicit imports and Health Departments are helpless to stop illicit sales. Teens can access illicit products freely.
This approach is doomed to continue to fail. Have we learned nothing from prohibition and the failed war on drugs?
Whether you like vapes or not, the only way forward is sensible regulation. This would make vapes readily and legally available to help adult smokers quit, provide quality and safety standards, restrict sales to minors and generate taxation for governments.
The recommendation for a national health campaign to inform the public of the facts about the potential risks of using e-cigarettes will inevitably be yet another fear campaign, exaggerating risks and further misinforming an already-misinformed public. Queensland Health's current Dr Karl's Vape Truths campaign is an appalling disinformation exercise.
One of the main focusses of the Report was “the alarming rise in youth vaping”. However, the prevalence of youth vaping was exaggerated, and it completely overlooked the driving force behind youth access: the thriving black market that results from the current prohibitive prescription-only model.
The band-aid solutions suggested for youth vaping will have little impact as long as the black market continues to operate. That is beyond doubt
The only ray of hope was the dissenting and courageous report by the deputy Chair of the Committee, Rob Molhoek MP who argued for evidence-based policy. His comments included:
This report does not represent the best available scientific evidence on vaping. It is biased and driven by ideology and politics, misinformed by many partisan experts, and fails to provide workable solutions for the many problems created by the current regulations.
My score: 3/10
Vaping: An inquiry into reducing rates of e-cigarette use in Queensland. Report No. 38, 57th Parliament Health and Environment Committee August 2023
My submission to the Inquiry