Lung cancer

Precautionary principle is ‘immoral’, vaping inquiry hears

Doctors’ groups have condemned the decision to allow a second tobacco giant to front the federal government’s inquiry into vaping.

Philip Morris Limited used its time in front of federal MPs to describe its goal to convert over a quarter of its 150 million customers to vaping by 2025 as part of its quest for a “smoke free future”.

The company had invested $2 billion in factories for production setting an ‘aspirational goal’ for 30 per cent smoke-free product volume, spokesman Mark Powell told the public hearing in Melbourne on 5 October, the third for the standing committee’s inquiry into the use and marketing of electronic cigarettes.

“Crucially over 3 million people have quit smoking and switched to iQOS, the first of our reduced-risk personal vaporiser products,” Mr Powell claimed.

“We expect that by 2025 at least 40 million consumers who would have otherwise continued smoking will have switched to our smoke-free alternative”.

Earlier this year the inquiry heard from British American Tobacco which recommended the regulation of nicotine e-cigarettes should come under the remit of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

The attendance by Philip Morris drew strenuous objections from the Thoracic Society of Australia and New Zealand and the AMA, who each gave evidence in private sessions after the inquiry abandoned its previous round table format.

“TSANZ as a matter of policy does not meet with or engage in discussions with the tobacco industry,” said TSANZ spokeswoman Professor Anne Holland.

“TSANZ respectfully advises the committee that, due to the industry presence creating a conflict for us, we will be leaving after the break.”

The society cited a growing body of evidence suggesting vaping is a gateway to smoking for teens and is harmful to cardiovascular health, and the lack of evidence for smoking cessation.

It will be 15 to 20 years before large population studies can demonstrate the impact on human health, and in the meantime the precautionary principle should be applied, Professor Holland said.

Also arguing for the precautionary principle was AMA deputy president Dr Tony Bartone, who said that until the evidence was in, e-cigarettes should not be marketed as cessation devices.

“The behaviour towards the sale and supply of e-cigarettes should be exactly the same as that which applies to cigarettes”.

But Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance executive director Tim Andrews claimed applying the precautionary principle to vaping  was “immoral”.

He said 240,000 Australians were “trying to quit smoking through the use of vaping technologies” and those vaping nicotine without a prescription faced fines of up to $45,000 in WA or two years imprisonment in the ACT.

While the oft-cited statistic that e-cigarettes are 95 per cent safer than cigarettes is in dispute, all sides of the debate agree “they are a safer alternative”, he claimed.

“Applying the precautionary principle because some people might quibble about the exact percentage that they are safer and believe we need 20 more years of studies is, I would argue, an immoral thing.”

“It is immoral and it is definitely precautionary to force people to keep smoking”.

 This article is based on proof Hansard transcripts.

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