GPs support crackdown on vaping

March 31, 2024 BY

Under the proposed bill, people will be able to obtain a prescription for nicotine vapes from their GP for therapeutic purposes as a second-line smoking cessation measure. Photo: FREEPIK.COM

GPs have again thrown their support behind the federal government’s crackdown on vaping.

The stance follows the federal government’s introduction last week of the Therapeutic Goods and Other Legislation Amendment (Vaping Reforms) Bill 2024 to ban the importation, domestic manufacture, supply, commercial possession, and advertisement of disposable single use and non-therapeutic vapes.

Under the reforms, people will be able to obtain a prescription for nicotine vapes from their GP for therapeutic purposes as a second-line smoking cessation measure.

Royal Australian College of General Practicioners (RACGP) president Dr Nicole Higgins urged all MPs to back the bill.

“We support the crackdown on vaping, it’s not a harmless alternative to smoking cigarettes,” she said.

“Vaping is taking hold of more and more people, and the health dangers are significant. No one can be 100 per cent sure of the long-term impacts so you are playing with fire, and we do know they contain chemicals that cause serious respiratory issues and lung damage.

“It’s been reported that some teenagers are learning they have the lungs of a 70-year-old and that the damage may be permanent.

“We must do everything we can to stop a new generation of nicotine users emerging because once young people start vaping, they will have a lot of trouble stopping. Many young people are shocked to find how severe the withdrawal effects can be when they try to quit. It can be a very confronting experience including anxiety and trouble eating and sleeping.”

Dr Higgins said GPs had a vital role to play.

“All GPs can now prescribe nicotine vaping products for smoking cessation.

“So, our role is crucial, and although we do have a big job ahead of us prescribing nicotine vapes for patients who need them, I’m confident that with the right kind of support we can continue helping patients from all walks of life wean themselves off nicotine. We are already experienced in helping people quit nicotine, including behavioural support, managing withdrawal symptoms and cravings, taking advantage of nicotine replacement therapy options, as well as medicines including varenicline or bupropion, which can block the pleasurable effects of nicotine and make quitting that much easier.”

According to Dr Higgins, the job is not done.

“There is a long fight ahead of us,” she said.

“We will continue our calls for the government to introduce more clearly documented restrictions on tobacco lobbying to include all nicotine containing products.

“The RACGP will also keep fighting for all MPs and political parties to reject Big Tobacco donations and refrain from meetings with any tobacco lobbyists. The good news is that most parties have already done so. Big Tobacco representatives do not deserve to get their foot in the door with any member of Parliament.”

She said vapes were not being sold by companies as a benevolent public health measure.

“They are trying to make money. We know that Big Tobacco companies are closely tied to ‘foundations’ financing academic papers on e-cigarettes. There was a ‘cash for vapes’ scheme which would have led to pharmacists receiving $275 from Philip Morris when they order a certain type of vape. The list goes on and on, unfortunately.

“My message to everyone in the community is that if you are smoking or vaping and want to quit – please consult with your GP, we are here to help. It may be the best health decision you ever make.”