Maverick federal senator Cory Bernardi has called on the Department of Health to acknowledge the arguments of harm reduction experts and bow to the need to legalise new nicotine products to save Australian consumers’ lives.
He called the department’s views “an extreme and out-of-touch position”.
In a speech to parliament in Canberra, Bernardi asked: “Would you want a loved one who cannot or will not quit smoking to light a cigarette or to use an e-cigarette that is far less harmful and that may actually save their life? It is a simple question really, and I believe there is a very easy answer.”
He added: “If we know the answer for our own loved ones, how then can the Department of Health deny them to the whole Australian public?
Bernardi called for the minister, David Gillespie, to act to legalise vaping despite the TGA’s recent refusal to sanction use of nicotine for the purpose, which has prompted international outrage) or be turfed out.
“I want to put on the record, to inform the ministers, Minister Hunt and Minister Gillespie, of the need for action in Australia. If the TGA and the Department of Health cannot do what is right here, then ultimately the parliament will have to do what is right and take this decision away from the ministers responsible.”
Informing parliament of the global benefits now being derived – in terms of public health improvement – from adults switching from smoking to safer forms of nicotine use, Bernardi pointed out the obvious fact that “there are not enough people in the whole of Australia who could use them to cause more harm in any reasonable public health equation.”
Bernardi is one of a growing number of parliamentarians of all persuasions to say they are losing patience with the regressive and authoritarian (or corrupt) stance of public health in Australia, which is refusing to acknowledge the progress being made elsewhere – like UK, Canada and now New Zealand.