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Byron Shire
February 25, 2021

AMA hypocrisy

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I applaud Colin Mendelsohn, conjoint associate professor in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at Uni of NSW. Colin cancelled his membership of 30 years to the Australian Medical Association – AMA; he says he can’t tolerate its hypocrisy on supporting harm reduction through pill testing for drug takers but opposing vaping to reduce the harm from smoking.

Now illicit drug taking is illegal but smoking tobacco isn’t, but each year in Australia 19,000 smokers die prematurely from smoking.

We’ve heard about the deaths of people who have died at music festivals from suspected pills; would they have taken the pills if they had been able to test them and made a choice not to take them and lived?

Why NSW is digging its heels in against legislating for pill testing is beyond belief, but  they won’t stop the sale of tobacco because there’s too much money to be made. That’s what it’s all about: corporate greed over people’s health.

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  1. It is quite unfair to demonise the AMA which has consistently opposed the spread of tobacco and championed ways of reducing its use. On vaping the AMA advises: “There are legitimate concerns that e-cigarettes normalize the act of smoking. This has the potential to undermine the significant efforts that have been dedicated to reducing the appeal of cigarettes to children, young people and the wider population. These concerns are supported by research findings that young people using E-cigarettes progress to tobacco smoking”. The AMA expresses concern at the the role of the tobacco industry who have invested heavily in the development and promotion of E-cigarettes. I know myself a young person who acquired a nicotine habit after living in a country where vaping in public is common and now smokes, and we see in Byron Bay a retailer associating vaping with the healthy practice of cycling – a technique that takes us back to the cigarette ads of the seventies. I am taken aback too at the numebr of adults who smoke on our streets and other public places in the Northern Rivers, each one normalising the habit in front of children and young people. .

    I would like to see the AMA get behind the push of some doctors to prohibit all further sale of nicotine products to people born after a set date, and the criminalization of its sale ot those age groups. Along with banning its use in any public place, that would lead to a strong reduction in take up among young people, make smoking an increasingly marginalized activity and show once again Australia can lead the way in reducing the use of what is a pernicious drug .

  2. Australia has had more success in the de-normalization of smoking than the UK – or Northern Europe or the US – and so in reducing rates of smoking. Hence the harm equation in Australia means preventing a take up of smoking carries more weight then harm minimization for the smaller numebr we have of existing smokers. It is also important to realise that preventing harm to children and young people carries more weight in social marketing in Australia than it does in most other OECD countries (it is a similarly powerful way to make positive change to behaviour in NZ).

    So while I understand the point you are making, for those grappling with nicotine craving there are less harmful means of delivery such as patches or gum that do not imitate smoking and so normalize the act of smoking. As the AMA states, there are legitimate concerns based on research that e-cigarettes normalize the act of smoking and lead to to tobacco smoking.


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