By Pippa Starr
December 30, 2020
It was as a day like almost any other sunny day as I was driving along the Gateway Motorway in South East Queensland, suddenly I hit a puddle of water that I didn't notice as it was shadowed by the overpass.
Mud filled water covered the windscreen blocking my vision for a few seconds that seemed to take an eternity.
I instantly found myself driving at 100 k\m per hour by braille, a deep panic took over my body as I screamed to myself out loud, "oh shit, I'm gonna die!".
For a few seconds, my life paused. I had no idea where I was on the road or if a truck was beside me, behind me or in front of me. The mud filled puddle water slid down the windscreen as a large steel guard rail lined up with my car ready to split it into two.
My fate was left up to instinct and lady luck.
I pulled up just inches short of that guard rail with my heart beating outside my chest, yet somehow unscathed.
Naturally, my life flashed before my very eyes that day and night. It didn't take long for me to go to the part of my mind that that said "you have to cherish life, you have to get healthy because life is too short".
The following week I contacted a doctor to treat a condition that I had been putting off for way to long. The doctor was amazingly skilled and before I knew it, I was on a necessary life saving medication.
"You need to stop smoking, if you don't I will have to stop your medication", Dr.B explains in a calm yet deadly serious tone.
Dr B explained that if I take the medication while smoking I would be in the
"almost certain" category to get a blood clot that could and would almost certainly kill me.
I assured her that day I would stop smoking. I thanked her for the patches she gave me and immediately got my prescription for Champix filled.
In less than 48 hours withdrawal became unbearable and I had to grab another pack of smokes.
"If I'm gonna die, I'm gonna die", I reassured myself with logic only an addict would understand. I continued running the gauntlet risking my life while also taking the life saving medication in an oxymoronic way for another 2 years.
I tried several more times to quit via cold turkey, trying all the supermarket nicotine products, acupuncture and hypnosis after the failure of patches and champix to try and finally ditch the darts until I found something that worked.
That something was vaping. After dual using, ie. smoking and vaping with nicotine for around two weeks, I was finally free from 25 years of combustible tobacco addiction.
Some months later, I came clean with my doctor on how I finally quit smoking for good with vaping. I asked her to write me a prescription for nicotine so I can legally import it. Unsurprisingly she had already done a little bit of research on vaping and said,
"Oh that's good, it's so much better for you than smoking, I hear".
Naturally she wrote that prescription.
Dr.B's wife who was a smoker contacted me not long after to see if it was possible for her to quit with vaping as well. Dr B's wife is now also a non smoking vaper.
Yesterday I had my bi-annual visit with the same doctor that prescribes me with that life saving medication. I have been seeing her for over 8 years now, and naturally we chat for a few minutes before she writes me out my usual prescription.
We got chatting about the current situation of tobacco harm reduction in Australia.
She is a highly experienced doctor who is often on TV as she is a leader in areas of helping treat people with HIV, pRep medication, LGBTI issues and much much more.
She will prescribe nicotine when asked, but doesn't wish to be inundated via an advertised short list to prescribe nicotine. (Currently there is over 520000 vapers yet only around 14 doctors able or willing to prescribe.)
She needs time to treat her existing patient's with matters that need a Doctor's attention.
"So, where are we at with this now?" she asks.
"The government are insisting on a Doctor/Prescription/Pharmacy model that will be fully implemented by October, 2021". I explained.
"That's mad, vape shops do a great job, no pharmacist has a chance of being able to help, they just won't and don't have the knowledge! They will have no hope unless they put vape shops inside chemists and that won't happen!
I have been in vape shops with my wife and their knowledge is amazing!
They do a great job that chemists will never be able to do! " she explained.
"Yup, meanwhile 1 in every 5 smokes, smoked in Australia are from the black market now, and by making vaping less accessible it's only going to get bigger" I replied.
We continued our chat as Dr B wrote out the script I originally came for, yet I know the information I shared with her certainly sank in as she said "wow 1 in 5 that's eye opening, this country is so backwards, the TGA will have to approve the products going into the chemists wont they, it's insane that CBD oil even needs a prescription...pfff, most doctors wont go through the hassle of prescribing nicotine through the TGA process, they have too much other stuff to do already."
You could literally see the flood of thoughts with dismay at our government as she was explaining this.
Last night I reflected on my appointment with Dr. B.
What if I didn't have that life saving medication and near death experience, would I be still smoking?
Would I still be alive if I didn't find vaping?
Would my doctor's wife be still smoking?
It made me think about the butterfly effect of the events here. This is only my short story, yet there are over 520000+ others in Australia and over 57 million others across the world over the last 17 years with their own unique situations and that could potentially save many more lives.
Incidentally, regardless of what has been spruiked in the media, there has never been a single death caused by vaping a nicotine product.
Yet here we are in 2020 with 23x more preventable deaths from smoking than with COVID19 in Australia this year, while cigarettes remain available at every corner store and from nearly every man in an alleyway wearing a trench coat. The one technology that works more effectively than any other way to stop smoking is kept under lock and key here in Australia.
Will the Australian Government, the health minister and the TGA ever learn?
The smoking rate in Australia has declined up to 3x slower than it has in the UK and the USA in the last 3 years where vaping with nicotine is not a prescription product.
In fact no other country in the world has nicotine as a prescription product!
14%* of Australians still smoke and it seems that figure isn't set to plummet anytime soon.
*(accountable not inc. all black market products -AIHW 2019)
The message from the Australian Government by it's actions say
"Keep Smoking Australia, Our Economy Depends On It!"
Meanwhile let's reflect on what the butterfly effect of not legalising vaping with nicotine would look like: another year, another 21000+ preventable deaths, a bigger black market with more access to deal more deadly drugs, more lost loved ones that could of had another day to make a positive difference in this short thing we cherish called life. It's a grim picture indeed.
Need more information about the legislation of vaping and how to play a role in saving lives?
The doctor mentioned in this article "DrB", I won't name due to quotes being used were in a time of patient/doctor confidentiality. I may ask DrB to do a full face interview in the future, if she is comfortable, able & willing to do so in the future.