His comment came with the release overnight of a report from the UK government’s chief health advisory body.
“Health Minister Greg ‘not on my watch’ Hunt has been held hostage by a group of so-called public health experts who are ideologically opposed to e-cigarettes, despite now irrefutable evidence that these products are saving thousands of lives,” senator Leyonhjelm said in a statement.
“The Turnbull Government cannot continue to stick its head in the sand on this issue. The jury is in. E-cigarettes are just as effective, if not more so, than nicotine patches, gum and other TGA approved products.”
According to the senator’s statement, the report by Public Health England found that vaping – legal in the UK, EU, US and soon Canada and New Zealand – posed “only a small fraction” of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveyed substantial health benefits.
E-cigarettes were now contributing to at least 20,000 successful new quits per year in the UK “and possibly many more”, according to the report. The research results were so overwhelmingly convincing, a key recommendation made by PHE is that e-cigarettes should be made available alongside other nicotine replacement therapies in hospital facilities.
Senator Leyonhjelm further said the spurious argument put forward by Australian anti-vaping lobbyists – that legalising e-cigarettes would lead to more young people taking up smoking – had been resoundingly knocked on the head by the latest research.
The report concluded that e-cigarettes were not a route into smoking among young people, that youth smoking rates in the UK had continued to decline, and that regular use was almost entirely confined to those who had smoked.
“Meanwhile, smoking rates in Australia have not dropped in any meaningful way in recent years,” senator Leyonhjelm said. “What is the Turnbull Government really afraid of here? By preventing smokers from controlling their addiction to nicotine by much safer means, is the government’s own addiction to an $8 billion annual revenue from tobacco tax what’s really at stake here?”