A lawmaker took to the streets of Australia in a bus dubbed “Vape Force One” to protest the county’s current ban on liquid nicotine, which he calls “illogical.”
Australian Sen. Cory Bernardi spent Valentine’s Day driving around Canberra, the nation’s capital, in a bus outfitted with pro-vaping messaging that asks citizens to “stop the government ban on vaping and save 500,000 lives today.” Bernardi said he wants to draw attention to the issue with the goal of opening access to vapor products for smokers in the country to improve overall public health, reports News.com.au.
While vapor devices themselves are legal in the country, the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies liquid nicotine as a poison.
“The Government’s position is illogical,” Bernardi said Wednesday, according to News.com.au. “Vaping is a much safer way for people to satisfy their nicotine addiction and cravings. This is a way to do it that does less damage to individual’s health.”
Meanwhile, cigarettes remain legal and the smoking population in Australia is increasing due to the restricted access to alternative technologies.
Public health experts recently criticized current tobacco control policies from Australia’s Department of Health and the Australian Medical Association as “seriously flawed” and harming overall public health in the country.
Colin Mendelsohn, associate professor and tobacco treatment specialist at the University of New South Wales, argued in a Jan. 15 editorial for The Australian that federal regulators in Australia are largely relying on studies that are adversarial towards vaping, ignoring the larger body of research showing their immense benefit as a cessation tool.
A spokesman for Health Minister Greg Hunt responded to Bernardi’s vaping stunt Wednesday by pushing a thoroughly debunked narrative that, “it’s likely to lead to the uptake of smoking and we cannot support that.”
The “gateway” theory that vaping leads to smoking was previously debunked in a collaborative study by researchers at the University of Stirling and Public Health England; however, tobacco control crusaders continue to push the myth.
Mendelsohn laments how the Australian stance on vapor products stands in “stark contrast” to the health care bodies of the United Kingdom. The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials say vaping is a big part of the reason.
“It is time for Australia to follow the lead of similar countries,” Mendelsohn says in the editorial. “Australia needs to embrace the new paradigm of vaping and leave the prohibitionist, abstinence-only policy (‘quit or die’) in the past where it belongs. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Australian smokers depend on it.”
Many smokers in the country are ignoring the law and using e-cigarettes to attempt quitting, but they still run the risk of legal trouble. Vapers in Australia say they feel like their government is persecuting them for making a health conscious choice.
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