“E-cigarettes are relatively new and evolving products. There is scientific consensus that they are less harmful than tobacco cigarettes” stated Kiwi minister, Mr Lotu-Iiga, with a clear reference to the recent report published by the UK’s Royal College of Physicians. Additionally, Public Health England has teamed up with the latter and issued a report on the importance of supporting vapers at their work places.
However, reminds Associate Professor at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of NSW, Colin Mendelsohn, in Australia it is illegal to possess, use, or sell any nicotine product without authority such as a doctor’s prescription, and the substance is even graded as a dangerous poison in the Poisons Standard, the national medicines and poisons register. The oddity here is that although Australian laws ban nicotine intake through vaping, there is no ban on smoking, even if the latter is known to deliver nicotine in a way that leads to numerous fatal diseases.
In an article on the Sydney Morning Herald published earlier today on the 16th of August, Mendelsohn voiced his opinion on how he believes that e-cigarettes provide an opportunity for smokers to calm their addiction by intaking the nicotine they crave without breathing in the other harmful chemicals that come through smoking. Australian Doctor Attila Danko concurs (fr) with the above, as in a passionate speech at the Global Forum on Nicotine 2015, he appealed to health care professionals and vapers to work hand in hand in an effort to lift the ban on e-cigarettes and contribute in rendering tobacco smoking obsolete.
Last week the New Nicotine Alliance,(NNA), who is non profit organization representing ex-smokers who switched to vaping in a bid to quit the deadly habit, was amongst those who submitted proposals to the Therapeutics Goods Administration to remove nicotine concentrations of below 3.6% from the Poisons Standard. This would allow vapers to use e-cigarettes legally rather than being “criminalised for quitting smoking “the wrong way”.
Has nicotine been unjustly criminalized?
Mendelsohn, who is also a Tobacco Treatment specialist, added that the classification of nicotine as a poison is a “historical anomaly”, as although addictive,the substance is known to have relatively inconsequential effects on our health, except in pregnancy. Studies based in Sweden in relation to the locally popular snus (a moist powder tobacco pouch that you place under your top lip), and to other Nicotine Replacement Therapies such as Nicotine Patches, found that in contrast to the other chemicals found in cigarettes, Nicotine is not a carcinogen, does not cause respiratory disease and has only a slight effect on our cardiovascular system.
The dangers surrounding nicotine ingestion have been widely inflated, suggests Mendelsohn, echoing a study by Kristin Noll-Marsh,vice president of the Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association (CASAA), who wrote a “facts-check” article“ back in November 2012. Noll-Marsh’s study proved that children who inadvertently ingested nicotine only suffered minor injuries, in comparison to those who swallowed other liquids, such as unregulated household cleaning products. Additionally in cases where overdose occurred, the symptoms reported were mostly vomiting, with serious outcomes being a rarity.
The addiction to nicotine in smokers is a very potent one, hence why so many try to quit smoking over and over again oftentimes to no avail. Mendelsohn points out that whilst “two out of three smokers will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease”, the health risks to vapers are “unlikely to exceed 5% percent of the harm from smoking”. These statements are backed up by research published by the UK Royal College of Physicians.
A call for an open attitude towards beneficial changes
Mendelsohn sheds light on the fact that inexplicably Australian authorities have a history of resisting the implementation of harm reduction schemes, which when applied turn out to be successful. Two examples of this are the past proposals for car seat belts and a needle exchange program for heavy drug users. The hostility towards e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation aid is clearly following the same pattern, as Australian authorities have clearly adopted a prohibitory attitude, without really looking into the benefits of vaping as opposed to smoking.
Mendelsohn concluded his argument by listing the benefits that the requested exemption from Schedule 7 would bring about. Regulating vaping products would mean product safety, better quality and the disappearance of the unregulated counterparts from the black market. Applications for proposals such as the one by the NNA will be received by the TGA up to the 1st of September, after which it will be putting them forward to the Advisory Committee on Medicines Scheduling for reviewing. The tobacco treatment specialist is hoping that the evidence proving the benefits of vaping products is given its rightful consideration, and that Australian citizens will not be denied this opportunity that could potentially save thousands of lives any longer.