Health experts gather in Melbourne to discuss the benefits of allowing nicotine e-cigarettes in traditionally very anti-vaping Australia
Australia has consistently been one of the strictest nations when it comes to e-cigarettes and vaping. This is mainly because they classify nicotine fluid as a Schedule 7 poison, which makes it illegal to buy or sell throughout most of the country. This means that to get nicotine e-liquids, vapers must have them shipped from overseas, as well as adhering to the Personal Importation Scheme. Critics think that it’s backward how much harder it is to obtain e-liquids than it is to buy a pack of cigarettes in Australia.
Vaping was designed to be much less harmful than smoking, as well as help people off cigarettes. But according to many, Australian laws make it far more likely that smokers will stick with cigarettes. This is why a couple of public health experts gathered earlier this week in Melbourne to encourage smokers to make the switch. During their summit the two experts discussed what the best course of action moving forward would be, understanding that vaping has the potential to save millions of lives throughout Australia.
The experts each took time to talk about what they felt were the best reasons for allowing relaxed vaping laws in the country. The meeting was held at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference. Dr. Hayden McRobbie is a professor of public health interventions at Queen Mary University in England and had initially been in Melbourne to give the keynote speech at the conference. He has published 149 peer-reviewed articles, many of which highlight the positive effects of vaping on smokers health. Joining him was Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, who is a professor in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales.
During the summit, Dr. McRobbie discussed the unnecessary stigma of nicotine, especially in Australia. He firmly believes that nicotine is one of the most innocuous substances found in tobacco smoke. According to the professor, smoke inhalation is what causes the vast majority of long-term health effects for smokers, not nicotine. Building on this, Dr. Mendelsohn said: “e-cigarettes that contain nicotine enable users to replicate the same smoking experience as regular cigarettes, but without the harmful effects of toxic fumes.”
Both men were unwilling to rule out the possibility of adverse effects presenting themselves in the future. But they both agree that compared with the genuine and deadly effects of cigarette smoking, switching to vaping is an excellent choice. Dr. McRobbie was quoted, “their [e-cigarettes] benefits outweigh the harmful effects of conventional cigarettes.”
Also given what we know about their effectiveness as smoking cessation tools, there’s plenty of reason to support them rather than ban them. A joint study by Columbia and Rutgers Universities found that over half of smokers who committed to the switch were successful in quitting smoking. The study used an enormous sample size, as researchers had all of the data from the 2014 and 2015 National Health Surveys. But it’s important to note there is a significant drop off in success rate when users only vaped occasionally, indicated a strong correlation between continued use and staying smoke-free.
It would be a very big deal if Australia were to relax their vaping and nicotine juice regulations eventually. As one of the most prominent and wealthy countries to outright ban the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes, their concession would send a clear message to the rest of the world. Furthermore, a switch could be a signal for other countries, especially within “Australasia,” to start reevaluating their anti-vaping stance.
The Australian government’s harsh regulations on vaping have long been a bastion for anti-vapers looking to legitimize their stance. Similarly, it has also helped foster the extremely poor public perception of the benefits of e-cigarettes. Even in one of the most vaping friendly nations on the planet, the UK, recent surveys found that only around 13% of the general population correctly understood that vaping is “a lot less dangerous” than smoking. It’s clear that if we wish to see a world where vaping is successfully utilized for its smoking cessation abilities, we must focus on getting governments in countries like Australia to come around to the growing consensus of reputable researchers like Dr. McRobbie and Dr. Mendelsohn.
Do you think that nicotine should be treated as a poison and therefore banned for sale? Do you think that Australia will reconsider their stance on nicotine containing e-liquids? Is it essential to first get countries like Australia on board to convince smaller nations? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.