November 28, 2020

Scott Morrison to push national cabinet to reopen Australia by Christmas – live news

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In Canberra the health department and Therapeutic Goods Administration are appearing at a Senate inquiry into vaping.

The federal government is weighing a plan to go to a prescription-only model for e-cigarettes, with a decision expected by December for the new regime to apply from mid 2021.

Coalition senators Hollie Hughes and Matt Canavan have been pushing back about what the evidence for this model is – putting them at odds with the health minister, Greg Hunt, and setting the scene for a major stoush within the government.

Canavan accused the department of putting together a submission full of “weasel words” because it claimed there was no surge in e-cigarette use. He notes a correlation between smoking declining and e-cigarette uptake – although officials warned correlation is not causation.

Liberal senator Hollie Hughes.

Liberal senator Hollie Hughes. Photograph: Mike Bowers/The Guardian

Canavan accused the public servants of failing to consult smokers: “You’ve got a lot of book smarts, studies, science – but there’s not a lot of street smarts.”

Officials rejected this, citing extensive consultation.

Bernie Towler, a medical adviser in the department, warned that international studies show the gateway effect is “a real thing”. Studies show those who use e-cigs are three times more likely to take up combustibles – cigarettes, pipes, bowls etc – than non-smokers, she said.

Sharon Appleyard, the first assistant secretary of health protection, said: ”Basically there is no evidence that e-cigarettes at population level will lead to smoking cessation. At a population level it’s different to the individual level. It may be useful to some smokers individually, but not at a population level.”

John Skerritt, the deputy secretary of the health products regulation group, said there was clear evidence that intervention of a health professional was best at determining what route a patient should take to stop smoking.

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National cabinet is under way

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