Federal Government accused of vaping ‘scaremongering’
Doctors and tobacco experts have slammed the latest government guidelines on e-cigarettes claiming it exaggerates the harms of vaping nicotine and is forcing people back to smoking.
New advice released last week on a government health website claims "e-cigarettes are not proven to be effective in helping people give up smoking".
The article also said there was new evidence linking "electronic cigarettes and lung disease".
"Several deaths in the United States have been linked to vaping," the government's Health Direct website states.
The article has angered public health experts including Dr Colin Mendelsohn who has again joined forces with other leading smoking experts to write to the Government's Chief Medical Officer Professor Brendan Murphy, urging the Government to reconsider its advice.
Associate Professor Mendelsohn told The Sunday Telegraph the Government was "scaremongering" by linking e-cigarettes to recent deaths and lung injuries in the US.
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"Smokers deserve accurate information to make their own choices. This needs to be called out," he said.
"The current statement implies that vaping nicotine with e-cigarettes is the cause of the outbreak of severe lung injury in the US.'
"It is now clear that the vast majority of cases, if not all, are due to vaping black market, contaminated cannabis oils purchased from street dealers."
Prof Mendelsohn said vaping nicotine is an "effective and popular quitting aid" citing research from the United Kingdom which found 70,000 smokers had given up cigarettes in 2017 by vaping nicotine.
The letter, which is signed by leading public health experts including Dr Joe Kosterich and Professor Wayne Hall, calls the Government to provide "more accurate information" to make sure those who have successfully quit don't return to smoking.
A spokesman for the Department of Health told The Sunday Telegraph the Government was taking a "precautionary approach" to e-cigarettes while it monitors the evidence.
"The outbreak of lung disease and death associated with e-cigarette product use in the United States is still being investigated … and the Government will continue to monitor the situation," the spokesperson said. The Department said there was "insufficient evidence to promote the use of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation".
In Australia, smoking is the leading cause of preventable death but nearly three million Australians continue to smoke. recent data shows smoking rates in the UK and US - where vaping is legal - are falling faster than in Australia.
Last year Health Minister Greg Hunt bowed to pressure from pro-vaping colleagues in the Liberal Party and commissioned research on the potential health benefits of e-cigarettes, which isn't due until December 2020. A spokesman for Mr Hunt said the Minister "continues to express his concerns regarding the safety of vaping". "There is no safe tobacco product," he said.