Perceptions of a prescription model for accessing nicotine vaping products: an examination of submissions made by self-reported e-cigarette users to an Australian consultation.Health Promot Int. 2023 Aug 01; 38(4)HP
In response to rapid and substantial increases in rates of e-cigarette use among young people, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) made changes to the regulations governing nicotine vaping products. As part of the regulatory change process, Australians were invited to comment on the proposed regulations, which featured the introduction of a prescription model for nicotine vaping products. To inform strategies to enhance compliance with the tightened regulations, this study examined submissions made by self-reported e-cigarette users to the TGA's public consultation (n = 1405). A content analysis was conducted to identify and quantify key arguments. Claims about possible negative consequences associated with the regulations (e.g. people will return to smoking, inconvenience) featured in most submissions (84%). Around half (55%) of submissions mentioned perceived benefits of e-cigarettes, including favourable health outcomes (e.g. improved breathing) and enhanced tobacco cessation. Around half (52%) featured concerns about inconsistency in treatment and the argument that e-cigarettes should not be restricted when more harmful tobacco products are readily available. Alternative approaches to a prescription model were offered in nearly one-third (31%) of submissions. One-quarter (26%) included text provided by an industry-led astroturfing campaign. The arguments made in the analysed submissions suggest a lack of appreciation of (i) the negative health outcomes associated with e-cigarette use and (ii) evidence linking these devices to smoking relapse. Results highlight the need for targeted health campaigns that address (i) gaps in consumers' knowledge and (ii) vaping-related misinformation being promulgated by the industry and its allies.