Via the Manilla Express.
Australia is often recognised as world leader in smoking cessation. It’s certainly true that we have a better smoking rate than many other countries around the world.
In some suburbs across the country rates hover between 6 and 8 per cent, but those places are the exception, rather than the rule.
The reality is the national smoking rate has been stagnant for half a decade. In Tamworth, smoking rates are still above 30 per cent, according to data released last week by health policy think tank the Mitchell Institute.
The last time the national smoking rate was at 30 per cent was in 1989. In 1989, Bob Hawke was Prime Minister, the internet was invented, and the Berlin Wall fell.
Australia’s ‘quit-or-die’ strategy to getting smoking rates down hasn’t changed much since that time, despite the rest of the world moving on.
Smoke-free products, such as vaping and e-cigarettes, are less harmful than cigarettes and do not produce smoke – and as the biggest cancer risk comes from the combustion of tobacco – it means they are also better for the people around smokers.
According to research by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians, vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking. In a recent study, lead scientists from University College of London found that e-cigarettes are three times more effective than nicotine replacement therapy.
The best thing anyone can do to avoid health damage from smoking altogether is quit, but some people just can’t. Unlike second-hand smoke, there are no identifiable risks from passive vaping.
Everywhere I go ex-smokers, people who’ve tried to quit a thousand times before, are finally going smoke-free thanks to these new products.
Around the world e-cigarettes are saving lives. The NHS – Britain’s version of Medicare - estimates they could save half a million lives over the next ten years. But they’re illegal in Australia. Aside from Turkey, we are the only OECD country where this is the case. For a country which was once a world leader in reducing smoking rates, Australia has fallen behind.
While our smoking rates aren’t budging, they are falling in the US, UK, EU, Canada, and Japan. Even New Zealand has a falling smoking rate thanks to sensible regulation around e-cigarettes introduced last year to help people quit.
Surely Aussie smokers deserve the same chance to quit as their Kiwi counterparts?
But there are more than just health benefits from vaping. Following New Zealand’s sensible regulation of e-cigarettes, families are saving $800 a year. Here in Australia, one man, a truckie, told me he switched to vaping from cigarettes is now saving $14,000 a year – but is a criminal for doing so.
That’s money which is being thrown away, and isn’t going to paying the rent, the mortgage, or for the kids’ swimming, footy, or dancing. Ridiculous cigarette taxes are no longer working to get smoking rates down, but they are overwhelmingly hurting everyday Australians and their families.
Everyday Australians, especially those in areas with such high smoking rates, desperately need as much support as possible to quit, and we owe those who can’t quit the opportunity to choose a less harmful product.
We desperately need to catch up with the rest of the world to give Aussie smokers the best chance to quit – and they don’t deserve to be turned into criminals for that.