AMA says new study highlights the serious risks of nicotine vapes

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The Australian Medical Association says the results of a new study reinforce the risks of vaping and highlighted the need for reform and new restrictions.

The study, which has been published in the Medical Journal of Australia, provides the results of a comprehensive study of the health impacts of e-cigarettes.

“The jury is in - it’s time for stronger, strictly enforced regulations so we can avoid another public health crisis like tobacco,” said AMA president Professor Steve Robson.

“Vaping is not harmless, it is not safe, it is not part of tobacco control. It has become a scourge in our schools, with parents and educators reporting that it has gotten out of hand. And we are seeing adults and children alike suffering as a result of vaping.”

The study has found that young non-smokers who use e-cigarettes are around three times more likely to go on to smoke regular cigarettes, compared to young people who did not use e-cigarettes.

Other risks identified include addiction, poisoning, especially in small children, seizures and loss of consciousness caused by nicotine overdose, headache, cough, throat irritation, and burns and injuries, largely caused by exploding batteries.

The TGA recently consulted on the potential imposition of new restrictions on access to e-cigarettes.

Currently, nicotine-containing e-cigarettes or vaping devices can only be lawfully obtained from a pharmacist with a prescription.

In its submission to the regulator's consultation, the AMA called for changes to limit access to nicotine vaping products (NVPs) by banning personal importation and reducing the allowed concentration of nicotine. The submission also called for stronger controls on all vaping products through customs.

“We need to address the public health challenge presented by both nicotine and non-nicotine vapes,” said Professor Robson.

“Vaping products are a gateway to smoking for young people and there are significant risks from vaping that warrant much stronger regulation. For example, we know many products marketed as not containing nicotine have been found to contain nicotine and products have also been found to contain prohibited chemicals that can cause serious harm, like vitamin E acetate and diacetyl, which can cause serious damage to the lungs.”

Professor Robson said the AMA also wants improved regulation to curb the proliferation of recreational non-nicotine vaping products, including implementing similar regulation to tobacco products, such as health warnings, better labelling, plain packaging, and tobacco licences.

“We also need a targeted federal response to monitor and act on illegal advertising and promotion of e-cigarettes - particularly online and on social media - and improved enforcement of existing state and territory regulation to help block illegal vape sales both online and through shopfronts.

“Patients with a prescription for an NVP should be able to have the confidence that they are using a product that has passed the safety, quality, and efficacy assessments of the TGA, instead of purchasing an overseas product that hasn’t had to meet Australia’s high quality and safety standards,” said Professor Robson.