The TGA’s consultation on vaping is a sham

Posted on December 1, 2022 By Colin

AUSTRALIA'S PRESCRIPTION-ONLY MODEL for nicotine vaping looks set to continue with even greater restrictions, after the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) announced a consultation process aimed at restricting access further.

The prescription model has been rejected by vapers, doctors and manufacturers in Australia. The idea that nicotine liquids are medicines which should be prescribed by a doctor is clearly absurd. Other western countries treat nicotine liquid as a consumer product which replaces another consumer product, deadly cigarettes.

As well as continuing to require prescriptions to vape, the TGA seems set to apply further restrictions such as flavour bans, reduced nicotine concentrations, onerous product registration requirements, scary health warnings and import bans.

Panic about youth vaping

The TGA’s agenda is driven by the panic around youth vaping. Young people should not vape or smoke, but many will do one or both anyway.

However the harms from youth vaping are greatly exaggerated and are far less than smoking

Most vaping by never smokers is experimental and short term. Regular vaping is mostly confined to current or former smokers.  There is no good evidence that vaping causes young people who would not otherwise have smoked to progress to regular smoking (the 'gateway theory')

Most young people who vape do not get addicted to nicotine and there is otherwise very little evidence of harm. Vaping in young people is associated with worsening of asthma and respiratory symptoms. There is no evidence that nicotine is harmful to the adolescent human brain, only in rats. Further harms may appear over long-term use but are certain to be far less than from smoking.

In fact, evidence suggests that vaping is reducing smoking by diverting young people from smoking. As youth vaping rates have increased in the UK, New Zealand and the US, the decline in youth smoking has accelerated

While the potential harms to young people are small, the benefits for smokers who switch are huge. In trying to eliminate youth vaping there is a real risk of harmful unintended consequences for adult smokers

Restrictions and bans

Having created a black market with faulty regulations, the TGA wants to tighten the screws further with more bans, raids and tougher restrictions

Further restrictions on vaping will reduce the appeal and access to legal vaping products for adult smokers and vapers. This will discourage smokers from switching and will ensure that the black market continues to thrive.

Repeated past failures of harsh restrictions and prohibitions on other drugs and alcohol have shown that they do not work. The black market simply finds more creative ways to keep one step ahead.

The TGA acknowledges that border interception is difficult and state Health Departments do not have the resources to police illegal retail sales.

An alternative model

The only way to stop a black market is to replace it with a functioning, legal market

The preferred approach is for nicotine vaping products to be sold as adult consumer products from licensed premises, with strict age verification, like cigarettes and alcohol

Under this model

This model removes the requirement for a doctor’s prescription and makes nicotine vaping products more readily accessible for adult smokers who wish to quit and restricts access to young people.

The consumer model would bring Australia into line with other western countries such as the UK, NZ, USA, EU and Canada, but would provide stricter controls.

My prediction

The consultation process is a sham and will be used to justify a pre-determined agenda

Past government reviews of vaping in Australia have done just this.

Submissions from the AMA, Cancer Council, Health Departments and other anti-vaping groups and individuals will be used to justify further tightening of the already harsh restrictions on vaping. The flawed reports from the National Centre for Epidemiology and Public Health at the Australian National University and the NHMRC will be quoted as evidence.

Misinformation about vaping will be used to undermine vaping. This includes false claims that vaping nicotine causes EVALI (serious lung disease), seizures, harm to adolescent brains and is a serious poisoning risk.

The lived experience of former smokers who vape, the growing empirical evidence, common sense and the success of vaping overseas will be ignored and a precautionary approach will be be taken.

The winners will be tobacco companies, the black market and idealogues opposed to the most effective quitting aid available.

The losers will be smokers, vapers, personal choice and public health.


Potential reforms to the regulation of nicotine vaping products. Consultation paper. TGA November 2022  The deadline for submissions is 16 January 2023

TGA consults on potential nicotine vaping product regulatory reforms. Media release 30 November 2022

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