This meme has long been in the very top drawer of many vaping cultists. It proposes that any policy short of allowing nicotine vaping products to be openly sold and promoted without any regulatory encumbrance whatsoever will see untold thousands of vapers switch back permanently to smoking. Unlike vaping they say, this will kill many of them from smoking-caused diseases.

That last claim rests entirely on an assumption that the long term health consequences of  deeply inhaling 570 times a day (208,193 times a year) an unregulated cocktail of nicotine, propylene glycol and any number of thousands of unapproved for inhalation flavouring chemicals will be all but benign. Fifteen former presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco stated in 2021 “High-quality clinical and epidemiological data on vaping’s health effects are relatively sparse. There are no data on long-term health effects, reflecting the relative novelty of vaping and the rapid evolution of vaping products. Determining even short-term health effects in adults is difficult because most adult vapers are former or current smokers.” [my emphases]

If the government and the Therapeutic Goods Administration proceed with their preferred options and make nicotine vapes a prohibited import (unless destined for the prescription-only pharmacy access route), vaping advocacy hysterics forecast a migration back to  smoking that would make the annual African wildebeest migration look like a geriatric dawdle.

Instead of  doing what Australians do 314 million times a year when they need a prescription-only drug, nearly all vapers will “go back to smoking”. “Bwahhhh! We want flavoured nicotine!” they’ll scream, all forgetting for the moment that the cigarettes they will allegedly stampede back to are also nearly all unflavoured too.

But there’s another little problem with this forecast In Australia, in 2019, 53% of e-cigarette users were also smokers (“dual users”), 31% were past smokers and 16% had never smoked.

So most vapers also still smoke or never smoked. Do you see the wee problem here: how can someone who is still smoking be driven to smoke?

Among people aged 18-24 (where we see by far the highest vaping prevalence), half of all current e-cigarette users had never smoked. They are not vaping to quit cigarettes because they never smoked. Vaping theologists implacably repudiate the gateway hypothesis that vaping can lead to smoking, so presumably none of them are going to publicly argue that never-smokers who vape will start smoking.  

So combined, we have 69% of vapers who can’t migrate back to smoking because they are already smoking or never smoked.

More  recent national data available (2020-21) show the same picture. By far the largest group of people who have vaped in Australia are those who “formerly” tried vaping (1.428m) compared to those who currently vape  (442,800 – which includes a majority who also smoke). The overwhelming number of this 442,800 are not smokers who vaped then quit, but smokers who tried vaping but then quit vaping and continued smoking. And all this returning to smoking happened before the prescribed access policy was even introduced.

The main driver of the government’s proposed plan to restrict vaping access to those with a prescription is the out-of-control rise in teenage addiction to nicotine vapes, regularly belittled by vaping theologians as no big deal and mocked with “won’t somebody please think of the children” self-absorbed me-me-me values.

The UK, a nirvana for our local vape advocates, is now desperately struggling with an unprecedented spike in vaping by kids and has a bill in parliament like Australia to ban disposable, flavoured vapes.

Mark Butler and the TGA’s reforms could not come at a more critical time.

Other blogs in this series

Vaping theology: 1 The Cancer Council Australia takes huge donations from cigarette retailers. WordPress  30 Jul, 2020

Vaping theology: 2 Tobacco control advocates help Big Tobacco. WordPress 12 Aug, 2020

Vaping theology: 3 Australia’s prescribed vaping model “privileges” Big Tobacco WordPress Feb 15, 2020

Vaping theology: 4 Many in tobacco control do not support open access to vapes because they are just protecting their jobs. WordPress 27 Feb 2021

Vaping theology: 5 I take money from China and Bloomberg to conduct bogus studies. WordPress 6 Mar, 2021

Vaping theology: 6 There’s nicotine in potatoes and tomatoes so should we restrict or ban them too? WordPress 9 Mar, 2021

Vaping theology: 7 Vaping prohibitionists have been punished, hurt, suffered and damaged by Big Tobacco WordPress 2 Jun, 2021

Vaping theology: 8 I hide behind troll account. WordPress 29 Jun, 2021

Vaping theology: 9 “Won’t somebody please think of the children”. WordPress 6 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 10: Almost all young people who vape regularly are already smokers before they tried vaping. WordPress 10 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 11 The sky is about to fall in as nicotine vaping starts to require a prescription in Australia. WordPress 28 Sep, 2021

Vaping theology: 12 Nicotine is not very addictive WordPress 3 Jan 2022

Vaping theology 13: Kids who try vaping and then start smoking,would have started smoking regardless. WordPress 20 Jan, 2023

Vaping theology 14: Policies that strictly regulate vaping will drive huge numbers of vapers back to smoking, causing many deaths. WordPress 13 Feb, 2023