LETTER: Smoking rates continue to frustrate

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

IN the lead up to World No Tobacco Day on Sunday May 31, it is important to reflect on the devastation caused by smoking which kills more than 21,000 Australians each year.

Smoking remains the leading preventable cause of death and disease in Australia.

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 working with smokers for more than 30 years, I am frustrated that smoking rates have remained stagnant since 2013, particularly in the bush.

The reality is that most addicted smokers are simply unable to quit with conventional treatments and up to two in three will die prematurely as a result.

Many Australian smokers could quit by vaping nicotine.

Vaping is more effective than other smoking aids and is the most popular quitting aid in the world.

It is perplexing that Australia remains the only western democracy to deny smokers access to this lifesaving alternative.

All Australian smokers, especially those in rural and remote areas should speak to their GP about whether vaping is suitable for them.

A prescription from a GP makes vaping legal in Australia.

The peak GP body, the RACGP, has recently acknowledged a role for vaping for smokers who are otherwise unable to quit.

On World No Tobacco Day more than ever, we all need to ask why effective, far safer alternatives to smoking such as vaping are not freely available to Australian smokers.