Vaping 'victory' is far from a win, just another LNP con

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Health Minister Greg Hunt announced restrictions on the importation of nicotine-based vaping fluid (Image by Dan Jensen)

While it may appear the Government is working in favour of vape users, a closer look at their planned restrictions reveals the opposite, writes Chris Mordd Richards.

ON TUESDAY 23 June, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt announced that as of 1 July, the importation of vaping fluid containing nicotine for personal use would be illegal, punishable by up to a $200,000 fine.

Vapers – the vast majority who used it or are using it as a method to quit traditional forms of smoking – rightly panicked and flooded suppliers with orders, selling out many popular providers, especially in New Zealand.

An instant backlash ensued. On social media, phone calls to numerous MPs and senate offices across all sides of politics and a petition that gathered tens of thousands of signatures each day, all culminating in a backbench revolt inside the LNP with 28 Coalition MPs and senators signing their names to a letter asking Hunt to reconsider.

Four days after the initial announcement, the health minister publicly backed down. The vapers had won, essentially nothing more to see here. That is according to at least one politician and at least one New Zealand vaping supplier, among others declaring an outright win.

Even a cursory glance at the detail of Hunt’s second announcement, however, should give everyone pause. At least one NZ vaping supplier does agree with that.

Far from a victory, the Government has announced that the ban will merely be delayed by six months, pushed back to 1 January 2021. At that point, the intended ban as announced would still take effect.

So why is everyone declaring victory suddenly?

One reason appears to be they genuinely believe the Government line that we can all just get a doctor’s script now for vaping fluid. Ordering from a registered medicinal supplier they approve, the six-month delay to the ban is enough time to get all that in place.

Anyone who believes that, however, has not been paying close attention over the last few years to the legal medicinal cannabis supply sector and how quickly or well that form of forcing people onto the legal alternative worked out for consumers.

What does medicinal cannabis have to do with medicinal vaping, you might rightly ask? In 2016, the Federal Government legalised medicinal cannabis.

Just like with the proposal now for vapers, consumers wanting access were to be required to see a GP, obtain a script and then order from an approved medicinal supplier.

On the face of it, it seems all well and good. However, it's far for the Malcolm Turnbull or Scott Morrison Governments to have implemented that scheme even close to something that could be described as well or good.

There were few doctors willing to join onto the scheme initially – as now with vaping – and it took a while to get medicinal suppliers approved, not becoming available till 2018. Even if you somehow managed to jump those two significant hurdles, you still had to pay to import it from overseas.

There is still far from enough doctors or suppliers, although it has slowly improved somewhat over time. Many barriers remain for end users, though.

This is where the penny really dropped for many users. It was expensive — much more expensive than black market products.

It has remained expensive, as demonstrated by this February headline about a consumer in the medicinal cannabis space in Australia spending more than $600 per month on legal cannabis medicine.

Yet Greg Hunt and Scott Morrison would have us believe that the medicinal vaping scheme they are putting into place, which in many ways mirrors the 2016 medicinal cannabis scheme, will work out any better for consumers.

Are we all really that gullible? This time around, nothing will be different. It will be an extremely slow and inadequate rollout with few GPs on board, far too expensive, with a black market still emerging as a result.

This is not a victory of any sort or description.

This is a disaster dressed up in cheap Christmas lights, which is exactly when the ban is now intended to take effect — right after New Year's when far fewer people are paying attention and it will be much harder to oppose it again.

The last thing any vaping consumer or advocate should do right now is declare victory, pack up and go home. It is an absolute necessity to continue to fight to make sure this ban is never implemented. Cynics may say that now it has been delayed once it will just be delayed again, but are vape consumers willing to take that risk?

Are you willing to roll those dice with this federal government?

Personally, as someone midway through quite successfully transitioning from smoking to vaping myself, I certainly do not trust this government on this. Neither should you. Fight the #vapeban.

You can follow Chris Mordd Richards on Twitter @Mordd_IndyMedia.

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