Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (17:09): I am very pleased to rise to speak on this important issue. Following on from Ms Terpstra, I just want to correct a couple of things. This motion does not suggest that vaping is completely safe. This motion in fact says that it is ‘not without risks’, but it says it is a damn sight—well it does not say damn sight—but it says it is ‘certainly far safer than smoking’.
In fact the London college of physicians, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners and Public Health England all attest to the fact that while vaping is not without risk, it is about 95 per cent less risky than smoking. This is harm minimisation. Vaping is about harm minimisation. We are not saying it is harmless, but it is less harmful.
Now, when one in eight people who have cancer in Australia have it because of smoking, when we are seeing 19 000 people dying from smoking-related diseases, should we not do everything we possibly can to help reduce the harm that smokers are subject to because they are addicted to nicotine? They are addicted to it. When we look at the studies around the use of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation device, every piece of evidence shows that they are twice as effective as any other smoking cessation product on the market.
I noticed Ms Terpstra mentioned Minister Mikakos talking about safe packaging for e-liquids, for nicotine liquids. Fun fact: it is actually illegal to sell those products in Australia so I am not sure how the government is going to create a law about safe packaging for a product that cannot be legally sold in Australia. That is like saying, ‘Safe packaging for heroin’.
Ms Terpstra: It’s a big stretch between tobacco and heroin.
Ms PATTEN: No, the stretch is that it is illegal to sell these nicotine products, so it is absolutely misleading for the government to say, ‘Oh, well, let’s do safe packaging for these products’. You cannot. In fact you can only get these products via a prescription, which I happen to have. It is a schedule 4 medication; it is not a schedule 7 poison. It is a schedule 4 medication and you can have it prescribed by your doctor.
Unfortunately I cannot purchase the product in Australia legally. I have to go offshore to purchase it, where I am at risk of buying from unscrupulous operators, where I am at risk of possibly getting a product that does not have what it says on the packet. This is why we believe that this product should be regulated in Australia. It should be legal. It should be controlled.
Again, can I remind people that vaping is not smoking. In jurisdictions where vaping has been endorsed, allowed by governments, we are seeing their smoking rates plummet. Guess what? In Australia our smoking rates have remained stagnant for years despite the ever-increasing taxes that we are putting on this and despite the plain packaging. Despite every effort that we have made, we are not seeing reductions in smoking.
But in the countries where they have allowed these types of alternative nicotine devices, they have seen their rates plummeting. In Japan, and I know Ms Terpstra has a keen interest in Japan, they estimate that their country loses 4.3 trillion yen due to smoking and smoking-related diseases. Since the introduction of heat-not-burn devices in Japan their smoking rates have literally plummeted. In less than three years Japan has seen a 21 per cent reduction in tobacco sales. Japan now has the same smoking rates as Australia and yet they do not have anywhere near the restrictions that we have.
Nineteen thousand Australians still smoke, and they will die from it. As many of the doctors say, people smoke for the nicotine, but they die from the tar. These are products that absolutely are not harmless, but they are less harmful. It is why Australia led in harm reduction. It is why we introduced needle and syringe exchanges. We led the charge in the 1990s. We were brave on harm reduction. We knew that people might be injecting drugs, but we wanted them to not contract HIV or hepatitis C, so we understood harm minimisation. But for some reason we cannot get it through our heads to understand that this is another form of harm minimisation for one of the most dangerous drugs in our society.
More people die from smoking than any other drug in our society, so why would we not allow a safer product to allow those people to stop smoking, to save their lives, to be around for their grandchildren. In New Zealand—
Business interrupted pursuant to order of Council.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Motion by Mr Quilty 18/3/20
Mr Quilty (Northern Victoria)
That this house notes:
(1) Public Health England’s Evidence Review of E-Cigarettes and Heated Tobacco Products 2018;
(2) that vaping is probably not without risks but that it is almost certainly far safer than smoking;
(3) the extensive evidence of reduced harm to smokers who transition to vaping; and
(4) that there is no evidence of harm to bystanders as a result of vaping.