Americans who think that the government attitude towards e-cigarettes is bad should consider themselves lucky that they don’t live in Australia. That country has a near complete ban on e-cigarettes and vaping products, while allowing tobacco cigarettes to be completely legal. Meanwhile the country’s 2.6 million smokers either have to continue to smoke if no other smoking-cessation method works for them, or become criminals in order to switch to vaping.
Australia’s ban on e-cigarettes has been the subject of much controversy, but the government recently declared that it is upholding the ban. But at the same time, it is launching an investigation to learn more about e-cigarettes. These statements came after numerous letters were sent to the Australian prime minister from health experts across the globe calling on him to overturn the vaping ban.
The country’s e-cigarette ban is due to the fact that nicotine in any amount is classified as a poison by the Therapeutic Goods Administration. Yet somehow, nicotine can escape the ban if it’s inside combustible tobacco cigarettes.
Neighbor New Zealand had also banned nicotine e-cigarettes, but lifted that ban recently and is in the process of legalizing vaping. But Australia is holding firm to its illogical position. Health experts from around the world, approximately 140 of them, wrote letters to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull asking that he lift the ban that they say could cost millions of smokers their lives. The letters came from such places as Oxford, Yale, John Hopkins, and the UK Royal College of Physicians, the latter being responsible for the research that found e-cigarettes to be around 95 percent less harmful than smoking. One letter accused Australia of being “increasingly out-of-step” with other countries with regards to vaping, and said that nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) provide a substantial public health benefit.
The government made no response to the letters for over one month, and then finally sent a representative to tell the Australian news media that the ban is staying put. But then, just one minute later, an announcement was made stating that there will be a parliamentary investigation into the matter. The “E-Cigarette Inquiry” will “investigate the health impacts of e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers, as well as their marketing and use as an aid for people attempting to quit smoking.”
According to one Australian journalist, these two announcements put different branches of the Australian government at odds with each other, and further complicate the country’s already confusing e-cigarette laws, which differ in different Australian states and territories. E-cigarettes and liquid that do not contain nicotine are legal in most places, but for many smokers, these aren’t helpful as a quit-smoking method. Nicotine is generally banned everywhere in the country, and in Queensland you can be fined for possessing it – unless it’s in that one form that’s known to be deadly: cigarettes.
The illogical rules of Australia make it at this point one of the most backward-thinking countries in the free world on the subject of smoking and health. The inquiry into e-cigarettes, however, could be a good sign. We can only hope that the country will follow New Zealand in lifting its harmful ban.