E-cigarettes: Is Australia out of step with other countries? – Health

E-cigarettes and their potential health effects have been hotly contested for some time.

Advocates say they are a less harmful alternative to tobacco cigarettes, and could help smokers quit, and, ultimately, save lives.

But many Australian public health experts oppose the use of e-cigarettes, arguing there isn’t enough evidence to show they’re safe.

They point to Australia’s low smoking rates, and say we should continue what we’re doing to lower them further. In their view, there’s no need for a new, potentially dangerous product.

Last month, Federal Health Minister Greg Hunt said he would never lift the ban on e-cigarettes, despite an ongoing parliamentary inquiry into their use.

But Mr Hunt’s position is at odds with health authorities in comparable nations including England, Scotland and more recently, New Zealand, who have backed e-cigarettes in a bid to lower smoking rates and reduce harm.

So why is Australia taking a more pre-cautionary approach?

How do e-cigarettes work?

  • E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that heat a cartridge of liquid nicotine into a mist to be vaporised.
  • They deliver nicotine (the addictive agent in cigarettes) without burning tobacco and producing harmful smoke.
  • Smoking e-cigarettes is often referred to as ‘vaping’.

World leader in tobacco control

Australia has long been considered a world leader in tobacco control — smoking rates have dropped by nearly 10 per cent over the past two decades.

“We have very low rates of smoking that are going lower, and we don’t need to experiment with something like e-cigarettes at the moment,” Professor Matthew Peters, Head of Respiratory Medicine at Concord Hospital in Sydney, told The Health Report.

Professor Peters is among the bloc of public health professionals, including Emeritus Professor Simon Chapman and Professor Mike Daube, who don’t want to see…

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