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City council on horns of smoking dilemma

City council on horns of smoking dilemma

Proposed banning of vaping in the Melbourne CBD

Civil Liberties Australia (CLA) comments as follows, responding to the Melbourne City Council invitation for public consultation on banning electronic nicotine delivery devices or “e-cigarettes” in the existing 11 outdoor smoke free zones in the Central Business District.

There is no evidence that brief exposure to e-cigarette vapour in the open air can adversely affect the health of others. Vaping is scientifically acknowledged as significantly safer than tobacco products, and the proposal has no merit.

  1. The health rationale for bans on outdoor smoking and vaping is absent. Tobacco smoke outdoors cannot harm others, and neither can vaping “smoke”, which is akin to steam in composition (depending on source), is blindingly obvious in most circumstances, and therefore can be easily avoided. Vaping emissions in the CBD would barely be measurable compared to CBD vehicle emissions.
  2. The burden of proof to ban or control vaping rests with ban proponents, not with those who seek to “vape”. Using the precautionary principle to claim vaping might be harmful fails the evidentiary burden of proof necessary to justify government intrusion into personal choice.
  3. The proposal appears to be based on prejudice against vaping because it “looks like” smoking. Such a ban would seek to censor reality, preventing consumption of a product proven to aid those who wish to cease smoking.
  4. The majority may well support bans which do not affect them, as few people “vape”, but introducing bans on that basis would reflect the tyranny of the majority, closer to mob rule than democratic principles of tolerance for the choices of others.
  5. CLA questions the legal standing and legitimacy of local government to regulate the choice of citizens who “vape”. The local government role and mandate does not extend to lifestyle control, already exhaustively covered by prohibitionist legislation at the Commonwealth and State levels. Rules and regulations should be limited to core council functions, not aimed at discriminating against a minority. If council wishes to act on “preventative health” grounds, then it should bar vehicles using diesel fuel from the CBD 24/7, because incessant diesel particulate is proven more dangerous than smoking, let alone vaping.
  6. Restricting vaping in the Melbourne CBD would be an additional unjustified intrusion into consumer free choice and autonomy. There is no defensible scientific or medical basis for additional bans and controls and the proposal should be rejected.

The who and why of the proposed banning:

“It’s proven impossible to stop people selling tobacco, Nutt said. “So the anti-tobacco people have got to attack something else, because that’s what they do – they attack and they ban. So basically they’ve fixed their wagons against vaping because it is one thing they can ban, and they’re very successful. It’s laughable that in India people go to prison for selling vaping when the government allows advertising of tobacco.”

– David Nutt. a professor in neuropsychopharmacology at Imperial College London, excerpt from The Guardian UK 18 February 2020

Dr Kristine Klugman OAM



(1) According to Britain’s Royal College of Physicians, “the hazard to health arising from long-term vapour inhalation [is] unlikely to exceed 5% of the harm from smoking tobacco”.


They were commenting on a regulated environment, as in Australia, not on the unregulated situation in the USA, from which some quotes are frequently drawn. The RCP did not make a comparison between vaping, smoking and the breathing of diesel particulates in CBDs.

(2) Despite “concerns that e-cigarettes will increase tobacco smoking by renormalising the act of smoking, acting as a gateway to smoking in young people … the available evidence to date indicates that e-cigarettes are being used almost exclusively as safer alternatives to smoked tobacco, by confirmed smokers who are trying to reduce harm to themselves or others from smoking, or to quit smoking completely.” The actual number of children who try e-cigarettes who then become regular users is very low.

See the link above and also:

(3) In the second link above, the RCP goes on to say, “[I]n the interests of public health it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes, NRT and other non-tobacco nicotine products as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking in the UK.” So the proponents of discouraging vaping are in fact going against the advice of the RCP and may be doing significant harm to people who are trying to give up smoking.

(4) On the risks of passive breathing of vapour from e-cigarettes, according to the joint position statement of the Royal College of General Practitioners (RCGP) and Cancer Research UK, “There is no good evidence to suggest that passively breathing vapour from ecigarettes is likely to be harmful.”



Civil Liberties Australia submission 8 May 2020


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