Vaping draws new health warning

Australia’s peak body for medical research has issued updated advice warning against vaping, as the US bans a leading e-cigarette brand.

What we know:

  • The National Health and Medical Research Council has updated its advice on the practice, warning users they are being exposed to potentially harmful chemicals and toxins (ABC); 
  • The body says there is limited evidence vapes help people quit smoking and e-cigarettes could instead lead to an increase in tobacco smoking rates;
  • E-cigarettes contain up to 200 chemicals, the experts warn, and can trigger seizures, poisoning, lung injury, headaches and nausea;
  • It comes amid warnings people are increasingly turning to the black market to access nicotine vapes rather than getting a prescription from a doctor;
  • The US Food and Drug Administration meanwhile has ordered leading vape brand Juul to stop selling e-cigarettes in the country (NYT); 
  • The ban is due to insufficient and conflicting data from the company about potentially harmful chemicals that could leach out of Juul’s e-liquid pods;
  • An Australian National University review on the health effects of vaping found escalating use of e-cigarettes in young people, with those aged between 14 and 17 now the second largest user group (The Conversation); 
  • Although vaping is likely not as dangerous as smoking, research on long-term impacts is still at a nascent phase and it is clearly worse for a user’s health than not undertaking either practice (The Guardian). 
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Millions spent hounding whistleblowers

The former Coalition government spent almost $6m prosecuting Bernard Collaery, Witness K, Richard Boyle and David McBride over their involvement in whistleblowing.

What we know:

  • The cost of the prosecutions has almost doubled in two years, despite the cases having yet to reach trial (The Guardian); 
  • By March, the government had spent $4.42m on the external legal costs associated with the prosecutions of Witness K and Collaery, whose actions helped expose Australia’s bugging of Timor-Leste;
  • The cost of the prosecution of McBride over a leak that informed an ABC series on Australian war crimes has reached $1.3m;
  • The case against Boyle for helping an ABC investigation into aggressive tactics employed by the taxation office to recover debts, has now cost taxpayers $76,747;
  • “The Albanese government must end these costly prosecutions, which are not in the public interest,” said outgoing senator Rex Patrick;
  • “Every day that the prosecutions of Bernard Collaery, David McBride and Richard Boyle drag on is another day where democracy in this country is being damaged,” said Human Rights Law Centre senior lawyer Kieran Pender.
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Albanese warns of budget cuts

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has warned Australians to brace for cuts in Labor’s first budget, as the Greens call to scrap legislated tax cuts.

In an interview with the ABC, Albanese said the budget would “really put the brakes on” federal spending to address problems highlighted by the expenditure review committee of federal cabinet (7News). 

Albanese said there would need to be talks with the states and territories about services provided by the federal government following constraints on the economy.

He ruled out a repeal of legislated incoming tax cuts for high income earners, arguing that would break an election commitment.

Greens leader Adam Bandt will use a speech to the Queensland Media Club today to call on Albanese to drop the cuts and stop gas companies claiming tax credits (SMH). 

If the government doesn’t do that, the Greens “will seek to amend the first budget”, he will say.

The tax cuts are on track to cost the budget $37bn a year by the early 2030s.

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Labor reengages with China

Labor Party national secretary Paul Erickson has met with China’s ambassador to Australia Xiao Qian to discuss the trade sanctions imposed by Beijing.

The meeting came at the embassy’s request and took place last Tuesday in Canberra (SMH). 

“I reinforced Labor’s view that trade restrictions against Australian exporters are unreasonable and should be lifted in order to stabilise the relationship,” Erickson said.

He said he also expressed concern about Australians detained in China, and a recent incident involving a Chinese fighter jet and RAAF surveillance aircraft.

Defence Minister Richard Marles met with Chinese counterpart Wei Fenghe for an hour during a dialogue in Singapore last week, the highest level contact between ministers from the two countries in more than two years.

Xiao’s efforts to meet senior figures in both major parties have been interpreted as the beginning of a potential thaw in relations between Australia and China.

Former resources minister Keith Pitt said it was “outrageous” Erickson had met with Xiao (AFR $). 

“It should be someone out of the executive, that’s signed off on national security, that has a security clearance. Mr Erickson is not even a ministerial staffer,” he said.

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US Supreme Court expands gun rights

The US Supreme Court has declared for the first time that the country’s constitution protects an individual’s right to carry a handgun in public for self-defence.

In a 6-3 split, with conservative judges in the majority and liberals in dissent, the court struck down New York state’s limits on carrying concealed handguns outside the home (AP). 

The court found that New York’s concealed firearm regime was at odds with the text and history of the Second Amendment and how gun rights were protected throughout US history.

The ruling could undermine similar restrictions in other states and lead to the overturning of other firearms restrictions across the US.

It comes at a time when momentum is growing for new gun control measures in the wake of the Uvalde school shootings in Texas.

President Joe Biden said in a statement he was “deeply disappointed” by the Supreme Court ruling, which “contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all”.

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I’m hoping this letter will bring about enough supply so that we don’t have to go to the next level.

Eurobodalla Shire Council mayor Mathew Hatcher resorts to desperate measures to resolve the NSW South Coast housing crisis, writing to non-resident ratepayers asking them to rent out their holiday homes. Politely worded letters seem like the firmest action we’re going to see to resolve Australia’s worsening housing inequality (ABC).

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Postscript: Why American Leaders Relish Hot-Dog Diplomacy

When King George VI of Great Britain visited American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939, war was looming in Europe. But for one brief moment, all that mattered was hot dogs (Gastro Obscura).

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Max Opray is Schwartz Media’s morning editor and a freelance writer.