Why Australia should make it as easy as possible for smokers to switch to vaping


Parliament’s move to ban nicotine liquid for vapers ignores the evidence of a much-reduced risk compared with smoking cigarettes.

Vaping nicotine is a popular exit strategy for smokers who are unable to quit using current treatments. It is more effective than nicotine patches and gums and for many it is a safer long-term replacement to prevent relapse to smoking.


Vaping is to smoking what methadone is to street heroin. While neither is completely safe, both significantly reduce harm. About 21,000 Australians still die from a smoking-related illness every year – more deaths than from all other drugs combined. Yes, our smoking rate has declined, but it has been virtually flat since 2013 despite aggressive tobacco control policies including sky-high taxes (and therefore prices).


In countries where vaping is much more common, such as Britain and the US, the decline in smoking rates began accelerating after vaping became popular.


I have been involved in drug harm-reduction debates in Australia since the early 1980s. Every new harm-reduction intervention met fierce resistance, often lasting years. This happened with methadone treatment for problem heroin users, needle syringe programs to slow the spread of HIV, and drug consumption rooms to reduce drug overdose deaths.


Article by: Alex Wodak, a retired physician, is an emeritus consultant at St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, and a director of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association.

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