LETTER: Tobacco report divides

Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn, Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association Foundation chairman and board member

THE recent release of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report Burden of Tobacco use in Australia has again revealed the ongoing divide between city and regional public health outcomes.

Smoking is the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia and claims the lives of more than 21,000 Australians each year.

Rural people have higher smoking rates and suffer up to 1.8 times the harm from smoking compared to those in major cities.

As a general practitioner and harm reduction specialist for more than 30 years it’s frustrating to see it being neglected, particularly in the bush.

The Government has allocated a miserly $25m for a media campaign over four years but has no other new strategies to reduce the smoking rate which has stalled since 2013.

In contrast, smoking rates are falling faster than ever in countries such as the United Kingdom (UK) and the United States of America where vaping is a central part of their quit smoking strategy.

Vaping is a far safer alternative for smokers who are unable to quit with conventional treatments and is actively encouraged by the UK and New Zealand governments.

It is perplexing Australia remains the only Western democracy to ban vaping.

People in rural areas are suffering from a heartbreaking drought.

They are also being punished financially by the high tobacco prices.

Vaping is a significantly cheaper alternative to smoking, yet it is banned.

All Australians, especially those in rural and remote areas should question why effective, lifesaving alternatives such as vaping are not available to Australian smokers.

Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn,
Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association Foundation chairman and board member

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