In this modern age, petitions which legally require people to sign a piece of paper seem archaic. They are also difficult to organise. Yet on November 26, I was proud to hand over to Aaron Stonehouse MLC a petition to the West Australian parliament calling for the legalisation of vaping.
Some 7176 signatures were obtained making it only slightly short of the number signed in support of voluntary assisted deaths laws. This petition was part of what led to a change in laws in WA. The politicians listened.
Clearly the people of WA support the legalisation of vaping to help smokers quit combustible tobacco. This is not surprising. We know from work promoted by the UK Government that vaping is at least 95% less harmful than smoking. We know that despite the highest per stick price of cigarettes in the world and plain packaging that Australian smoking rates have barely fallen since 2013. Rates of smoking in Indigenous people, those with mental health issues and other disadvantaged groups are much higher than the overall rate of 13%.
It is significant that many people who do not smoke are supporters of legalisation of vaping. Whys is this? Most people either have a family member or friend who has a smoking related illness or has died of a smoking related illness. Most members of the public also understand that quitting smoking can be incredibly difficult. Most of us know someone who has tried repeatedly to quit but has not been able to do so.
We also know that whilst cold turkey, patches, gums, prescription medication and even hypnosis helps some smokers quit, others have found these methods ineffective. International experience shows that vaping is the preferred option where available and a highly effective one.
Notwithstanding the legislation in Australia, many would rather improve their health by switching to vaping. Hence, it is estimated that as many as 500, 000 Australians vape. The vast majority of these people are breaking the law as it stands as they do not have a prescription from a doctor.
Given only ten doctors Australia wide are prepared to prescribe nicotine liquid to help smokers quit, it is little wonder that people take their health into their own hands. The argument that getting a doctor’s prescription is the best model is clearly flawed when one takes even the most cursory glance at reality.
Australia is an outlier when it comes to its approach to vaping. Let me be very clear on this. It should be no harder for people to access an at least 95% less harmful option than it is to access cigarettes. Governments have the power to help smokers quit by enabling smokers to buy vaping products legally.
Vapers do not seek government subsidy or programs. They do not want special favours. They simply want government to get out of the way. They simply want to be treated as fairly as their counterparts in multiple jurisdictions including their neighbours in New Zealand.
The petition shows that the people of WA want their politicians to let smokers reduce harm from smoking by vaping and support the legalisation of vaping in WA. The ball is now clearly in the politician’s court. The current parliament has run its course. There is an election in March. It is the duty of the next government to listen to the people and make it easier for smokers to quit smoking cigarettes.
Medical Doctor, author, speaker, media presenter and health industry consultant, Dr Joe Kosterich wants you to be healthy and get the most out of life.
Joe writes for numerous medical and mainstream publications, is clinical editor at Medical Forum Magazine, and is also a regular on radio and television.
Joe is Medical Advisor to Medicinal Cannabis Company Little Green Pharma, Chairman of Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association and sits on the board of Arthritis and Osteoporosis WA. He is often called to give opinions in medico legal cases.