Balancing Access and Restrictions: Expert’s Solution to the Nicotine Vaping Industry in Australia
An expert from the University of Queensland has suggested that selling nicotine vaping products in licensed shops with a strict age verification process will help adult smokers quit and restrict youth access. This recommendation has been made by Emeritus Professor Wayne Hall from UQ’s National Centre for Youth Substance Use Research. He believes that the current nicotine vaping regulations in Australia are not effective, which is acknowledged by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
Currently, nicotine vaping products can only be prescribed by a doctor and sold in pharmacies to adults who want to quit smoking. This has led to the development of a thriving black market that sells unregulated vape products to both children and adults. According to Professor Hall, very few adult vapers use the legal prescription pathway. The illicit sales to children and adults have become a concern and a major public health issue.
Professor Hall has recommended that the industry adopt an age-restricted consumer model. If this model is adopted, the black market would become less profitable, and illicit sales would diminish over time, being replaced by a legal, regulated market. This would be a significant step forward in reducing the number of smoking-related deaths and diseases in Australia.
The National Drug Strategy Household Survey 2019 revealed that vaping is the most popular aid for quitting and reducing smoking in Australia. Research has found that it is more effective than nicotine replacement therapy. Professor Hall said that evidence suggests that nicotine vapes divert young people from smoking rather than being a gateway product.
However, policymakers need to find a balance between providing adult smokers with easy access to nicotine vaping products and restricting access to youth. The primary goal is to reduce smoking-related death and disease, and while neither vaping nor nicotine replacement therapy are risk-free, vaping is a substantially less harmful alternative for adult smokers. Policymakers need to consider the harmful, unintended consequences of excessive regulation.
Professor Hall’s commentary is published in Drug and Alcohol Review in collaboration with Dr Colin Mendelsohn from General Practice Sydney and Dr Alex Wodak Emeritus Director of Alcohol and Drug Services at St Vincent’s’ Hospital. In their commentary, the authors discussed the potential benefits and risks of vaping and nicotine replacement therapy for adult smokers. They argued that while vaping is not completely risk-free, it is much less harmful than smoking.
The authors also highlighted the importance of making sure that vaping products are only available to adults who want to quit smoking. This can be achieved by implementing strict age verification processes and licensing requirements. The authors suggested that policymakers should consider adopting a harm reduction approach to vaping and nicotine replacement therapy, which would involve providing adult smokers with access to these products while also implementing measures to prevent youth access.
In conclusion, Professor Hall’s recommendation to sell nicotine vaping products in licensed shops with a strict age verification process is a promising approach to help adult smokers quit and restrict youth access. The industry’s adoption of an age-restricted consumer model will help reduce the thriving black market and create a legal, regulated market. Policymakers need to find a balance between providing adult smokers with easy access to nicotine vaping products and restricting access to youth. A harm reduction approach to vaping and nicotine replacement therapy would help achieve this balance and reduce smoking-related deaths and diseases.
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