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A critical analysis of the justification for the Australian e-cigarettes sales ban

Wayne Hall l,2, Kylie Morphett 3 and Coral Gartner, 3

  1. Faculty of Health and Behavioural Sciences, Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research, the University of Queensland
  2. National Addiction Centre, Kings College London
  3. Faculty of Medicine, School of Public Health, the University of Queensland

Bio:  Wayne Hall is a Professor at the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland and a Professor of Addiction Policy at the National Addiction Centre, Kings College London. He is also a Visiting Professor at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW.  He was formerly: an NHMRC Australia Fellow at the University of Queensland Centre for Clinical Research and the University of Queensland Brain Institute (2009-2014); Professor of Public Health Policy, School of Population Health, UQ (2005-2009); Director of the Office of Public Policy and Ethics at the Institute for Molecular Bioscience (2001-2005) at the University of Queensland; and Director of the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, UNSW (1994-2001). He has advised the World Health Organization on: the health effects of cannabis use; the effectiveness of drug substitution treatment; the scientific quality of the Swiss heroin trials; the contribution of illicit drug use to the global burden of disease; and the ethical implications of genetic and neuroscience research on addiction.

Abstract:  In 2008 Australia effectively banned the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) that contain nicotine. This was despite arguments that they provide a much less harmful way to obtain nicotine than smoking tobacco cigarettes.  This paper explains how Australia introduced this policy and it evaluates the empirical and ethical justifications provided for the ban by governments, public health advocates and health organisations. We argue that the primary argument used to justify the ban (that there is no evidence that ENDS are effective for smoking cessation and that ENDS are a gateway to smoking in young people) do not warrant a policy that denies adult smokers the right to use these products. At most it justifies tight regulation of these products to minimise access by young people and restrictions on the claims that retailers can make for e-cigarettes. We describe ethically acceptable policies that would address legitimate public health concerns about ENDS while allowing adult smokers to access them to assist in cessation and reduce tobacco-related harm.


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