New study suggests loosening (not tightening) vaping regulations benefits public health
A new report from Australian and New Zealand researchers strongly suggests that loosening rather than tightening federal regulations on vaping products can benefit public health. The study seemingly flies in direct contradiction to U.S. regulatory actions consistently being unleashed by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Just last week, FDA Chief Gottlieb proposed another aggressive crackdown on the sales of favored vapes through conventional brick-and-mortar retailers which could go into effect within months.
Vaping regulations vary greatly from country to country. Australia, in particular, has had a terrible time implementing regulatory guidelines that actually stick. Underground or black market products - which are non-regulated and extremely unsafe for the consumer – are always a substantial threat. Meanwhile, its mother country Great Britain seems to have embraced the vaping phenomenon as both a tobacco harm reduction tool and a smoking cessation aid.
The Australian government wants to be 100 percent smoke-free by the year 2025, and so far they are moderately successful in meeting their individual milestones. Declines in national smoking rates are noteworthy, but these statistics also tend to fluctuate from region to region.
The Aussie government refuses to be like Thailand and ban vapor products outright, preferring to loosen their regulations instead much like their neighbor New Zealand who has experienced measurable declines in national smoking rates as a consequence.
The question is: Will loosening vaping restrictions help or hurt Australia’s ability to achieve a smoke-free nation within the next six year?
The Australian/New Zealand study soon to be published in Epidemiology (preview in NCBI) is entitled Potential country-level health and cost impacts of legalizing domestic sale of vaporized nicotine products. The report was conducted by scientists from the University of Melbourne and the University of Queensland.
The researchers used a multi-state model of analysis involving 16 different tobacco-related diseases while evaluating the consumer habits of former, current, and never smokers engaging in e-cigarette experimentation. They wanted to determine if easier access to vapor products impacts public health and healthcare costs either positively or negatively. In Australia, acquiring these products is a very laborious and complex process even compared to the United States.
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The researchers compared their Australian analysis to similar data supplied by public health officials in New Zealand where access to vaping materials is far easier and the smoking and smoking-related disease rates are similar. After their comparative evaluations, the researchers came to the following conclusions.
“This modeling suggested that a fairly permissive regulatory environment around vaporized nicotine products achieves net health gain and cost-savings, albeit with wide uncertainty. Our results suggest that optimal strategies will also be influenced by targeted smoking cessation advice, regulations around chemical constituents of these products, and marketing and age limits to prevent youth uptake of vaping.”
Even though the bi-national group of researchers recommends loosening vaping regulations, they still support restrictions on underage vaping and government regulation of the chemicals used in vapor products. However, they also strongly recommend that newbie vapers receive proper counseling on how to use vapor products properly to successfully quit smoking through vaping. In a statement to Voxy, co-author Professor Nick Wilson made the following statement.
"These devices should ideally be sold where expert advice is available, such as specialist vape shops or from pharmacies - which can also give support on quitting smoking."
The co-authors also firmly believe that the scientific evidence which indicates that vaping is approximately 95 percent less harmful than smoking is virtually unquestionable. The 2015 report published by Public Health England making this claim still holds a lot of weight in the Aussie scientific community.
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