Those who have been to Venice have probably witnessed some form of Commedia Dell’arte, an improvised form of comedy where archetypical characters perform in beautiful Venetian masks. One of these characters Il Dottore (the Doctor), represents a once-learned man who ironically struggles to comprehend anything new and fails to apply his scientific mind to the real world.
In Australia, the closest cultural relic we have to Il Dottore is the Australian Medical Association, which despite being made up of intelligent and well-informed men and women, similarly fails to learn anything new in a morbidly humorous manner.
This is best exemplified with the AMA’s draconian stance on nicotine vaping. The AMA has chosen to ignore some 55 scientific journal studies which have shown nicotine vaping is an efficient way to quit smoking and is less harmful than traditional cigarettes.
This complacency has allowed for other local medical associations, like the Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists, and the Drug and Alcohol Nurses of Australasia, risking the AMA’s claim to being the best-regarded health group.
The AMA has also decided to ignore their mother body, the British Medical Association, who have stated on their website:
Increasing numbers of smokers are using e-cigarettes, with many people finding them helpful in cutting down or quitting cigarette use. There are clear potential benefits to e-cigarettes in reducing the harms associated with smoking.
Even left and Labour-friendly policy groups in Australia are now stepping out of under the skirts of “Nanny Nicola” Roxon, the prohibition crazy former health minister, with the McKell Institute supporting the legalisation of nicotine vaping in a report released earlier this month, Legalise Vaping Australia” that the legalisation of nicotine vaping would reduce public health costs, and allow for a pragmatic reduction in harm to the user.
Other doctors have also left the AMA in fury over their stance. Colin Mendelsohn wrote for the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), a registered charity that aims to change the public opinions of vaping in Australia, that he cancelled his membership with the AMA after they took the ‘Hypocritical Oath’ to support pill testing for harm reduction, but would not do the same for nicotine vaping.
Yet with such a staggering amount of support from other groups one may question why anyone would seek the AMA’s support for the issue?
The obvious reason is the AMA is still Australia’s most powerful health affiliated lobby group, and what ‘doctors say’ still holds weight to Australian health policy makers. The AMA thus appears to be the gateway to legalising nicotine vaping, and attracting shy self-preserving Pulcinella like political members to publicly support the issue.
Thus while one can sympathise with the AMA’s concern about having more smoking products made legal, we would ask that they overcome their cognitive dissonance and reach out to the Australian and New Zealand College of Psychiatrists to gain some mental clarity.
After all, this is not some seventeenth century Italian comedy.
Real people are dying every day.
Louis Williams is a research associate with the Australian Taxpayers Alliance and is currently completing a Masters in Health Policy at Murdoch University.
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