Georgetown University (USA) study finds that wider access to vapour products in Australia could prevent up to 104,200 deaths by 2080.

A study carried out by a leading institution investigates the potential impact on public health of reducing the restrictions on vaping products in Australia. The accepted manuscript, published in the journal Nicotine & Tobacco Research, was authored by leading researchers Professors David Levy, Coral Gartner, Ron Borland and Michael Cummings.

The study methodology is based on a research tool known as the Smoking And Vaping Model (SAVM), which was developed by Professor Levy et al to study the impact that the use of nicotine vaping products (NVPs) in the USA would have on public health (see here).

SAVM adopts a cohort approach by comparing smoking and NVPs attributable deaths and life-years lost under a No-NVP and an NVP scenario. Scenarioized estimates were based on Australian and US trends, with data derived from the following sources: Australian National Health Survey, the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modelling Network (CISNET) and US National Health Interview Surveys (NHIS). Public health outcome differences were measured as the difference between smoking- and vaping-attributable deaths (SVADs) and life-years lost (LYLs) in the restricted and permissive NVP scenarios, with sensitivity analysis regarding the NVP excess risk and other factors.

Results among males: Under current regulations, the smoking rate in Australia would decline from 14.5% in 2021 to 7.6% in 2080. If restrictions on the purchase of vapour products were lifted, the rate would instead decline to 11.1% in 2026 and 2.2% in 2080.

Results among females: The differences were subtler; under restricted access to vapour products, smoking prevalence would end at 4.8% in 2080 compared to 1.7% in the permissive scenario.

Conclusions

According to this study, there would be a total reduction in smoking and vaping attributable deaths (SVADs) of 7.7% (104.2 per thousand), by 2080 and a 17.3% reduction in life-years lost (LYLs), compared to current regulations.

The results of the modelling suggest that “relaxing NVP access restrictions in Australia is likely to yield a net public health benefit”. However, the authors also state that “the estimated number of averted deaths due to the relaxed policy is sensitive to assumptions about the presumed relative risks of NVP use compared to smoking and estimates of switching from cigarettes to NVPs.”

Why is this study significant? It presents peer-reviewed evidence and data that demonstrate the potential effect on public health in Australia if current restrictions on vaping products were relaxed. It also presents data to show the impact if restrictions are not relaxed, demonstrating this in terms of deaths and lives saved. Therefore, this study provides a compelling argument for assessing the impact on public health of restricted access to vaping products, which has counterintuitive consequences. This study should inform the Australian government’s tobacco policy and could serve as an advocacy document in countries where vaping is banned or restricted.

Click here to read the full manuscript.

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