Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt is being held over a political barrel by a “critical’ number of senators in regards to his stance on the use of nicotine containing e-cigarettes.
Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm has warned Minister Hunt that “unless he drops his unscientific and callous opposition to e‑cigarettes, a critical number of crossbenchers in the Senate will block all future health bills.”
“I’ve had assurances from crossbench colleagues that they will adhere to this strategy until the Health Minister reverses his ideological “not on my watch” opposition to e‑cigarettes,” he said.
“While evidence on the long-term effects of vaping is still emerging, it is irrefutable that e‑cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco. The entire European Union and the United States have already recognised this in legislation.”
Ironically in Australia, e-cigarettes themselves are not banned, only those that contain nicotine are banned.
“To continue to deny smokers another weapon in the arsenal against tobacco addiction is immoral and hypocritical. How can cigarettes remain legally available in Australia while less harmful nicotine products remain prohibited?” Senator Leyonhjelm said.
A poll recently conducted on The Leader’s website concluded that of the 351 people who took the poll over 90 per cent believed that the nicotine products should be available for people looking to quit smoking, a leading cause of deaths in Australia, and subsequent drain on the public purse.
On Wednesday a report into e-cigarettes released by the House of Representatives Standing Committee on Health Aged Care and Sport recommends the continuing ban on the sale of nicotine vaping products, although even the chair of that committee disagreed with the finding.
Chair Trent Zimmerman produced an accompanying dissenting report, as did another two of Minister Hunt’s Liberal colleagues – Tim Wilson and Andrew Laming.
“Knowing the consequences of people continuing to smoke, it is up to the Health Minister to examine his conscience and justify how he can continue the ban on a potentially life-saving product – Otherwise he can expect to make no progress in the Senate in the future,” Senator Leyenhjolm said.
Senator Leyonhjelm said the Government’s target of reducing smoking to 10 per cent of the population in 2018 will clearly fail, with smoking rates hovering just above 12 per cent since 2013.
By contrast, smoking rates are falling in countries where e‑cigarettes are legal.