Australia is one of only two developed countries that has not legalised vaping, Turkey being the other. More than 430,000 Australians now vape, with over 50 million globally. Countries that have legalised e-cigarettes or heat-not-burn products include the US, UK, Japan and NZ.
More than 3 million Australians still smoke, sadly resulting in over 21,000 people dying each year due to smoking related illness.
Public Health England, in its latest evidence review regarding smoke-free products, outlines the case for the use of smoke-free products as a means of achieving tobacco harm reduction: ‘Despite reductions in smoking prevalence, smoking remains the biggest single cause of preventable death and disease and a leading cause of health inequalities. So, alternative nicotine delivery devices which are less harmful could play a crucial role in reducing this health burden.
Since at least 2015, Public Health England has maintained that ‘vaping is around 95% less harmful than smoking.’ Cancer Research UK also recommends vaping over smoking, stating ‘The evidence so far indicates e-cigarettes are less harmful than tobacco smoking and can be an effective quitting tool.’
Professor Tony Blakely from the University of Melbourne and Associate Professor Coral Gartner from the University of Queensland have stated that “Australia should now commence a process of developing a regulatory framework that balances the risks and benefits offered by these products, as is happening in Canada and New Zealand.”
E-liqiuds that are sold in your local or online vape store typically contain non-oil grade food flavourings, Propelene Glycol (PG) and Vegetable Glycerin (VG). E-liquids purchased overseas containing nicotine are pre-mixed with safe levels of nicotine, or nicotine is added by the vape user in line with clear instructions. These well-known e-liquid ingredients pose no health risk to vape users when vaped and have not caused any deaths to date.
According to the UK Royal College of Physicians ‘if nicotine could be delivered effectively and acceptably to smokers without smoke, most if not all of the harm of smoking could probably be avoided.
Professor Blakely and Professor Gartner have also stated “for existing smokers, swapping tobacco cigarettes for e-cigarettes with nicotine will improve their health. But the shift could also mean a net health gain for Australia.”
Many smokers find it difficult to switch to well known patches or chewing gum, and find that electronic cigarettes or Heat-not-burn products have the added advantage of replicating familiar hand-to-mouth ritual and sensations of smoking which smokers can find very hard to stop.
While not risk-free, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that these products deliver far lower levels of toxic and harmful compounds than combustible cigarettes. If a smoker switches completely from smoking he/she is likely to have substantial improvements in health.