Australian Health Minister Hunt’s ban on e-cigs faces mounting opposition

The crossbench has put the Turnbull government on notice, stating no bills for which Health Minister Greg Hunt is responsible will pass through the Senate until he reverses the ban on nicotine e-cigarettes.

A recently released report by the House of Representatives’ Standing Committee on Health, Aged Care and Sport recommended the continuing ban on the sale of nicotine vaping products in Australia until more research is done.

The Chair of the committee, Trent Zimmerman, produced an accompanying dissenting report, as did another two of Minister Hunt’s Liberal colleagues – Tim Wilson and Andrew Laming – each recommending the devices be made legally available for sale, under regulation similar to that covering regular tobacco products.

Liberal Democrats Senator David Leyonhjelm has warned Mr 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,” Senator Leyonhjelm said.

“While evidence on the long-term effects of vaping is still emerging, it’s irrefutable that e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco. The entire European Union and the US have already recognised this in legislation. To continue to deny smokers another weapon in the arsenal against tobacco addiction is immoral and hypocritical.”

Australian Retailers Association Executive Director Russell Zimmerman says the ARA’s submission to the inquiry into the use and marketing of e-cigarettes called for retailers to be permitted legally to sell the products following substantial evidence of people seeking a less harmful product. “To date, research has shown that electronic cigarettes are an effective and less-harmful alternative to traditional tobacco products,” he said.

“As e-cigarettes are currently only available on the black market or through personal importation, legalising the sale of e-cigarettes will assist the government in removing the risk of unregulated and unsafe black-market activity.”

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