Australia’s liberal party MPs have been striving to overturn the current local vaping ban. Down under the devices are legal, but the use of nicotine-containing refills is not. In August 2016, several public health activists had submitted proposals to local regulator Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), to remove nicotine concentrations of below 3.6% from the Poisons Standard. However, in February 2017, the TGA rejected the application and upheld the nicotine ban.
Sadly these actions seem to have done little to halt further e-cig regulations from being implemented, as earlier this month the Tobacco Products Regulation (E-Cigarettes and Review) Amendment Bill was passed by SA’s State Parliament. Amongst other things, this bill will ban the use of e-cigarettes in smoke-free areas, the sales of e-cigarettes without a license, e-cigarette advertising, the sales of vaping products to minors and in-store vaping and flavour-testing.
Anti-tobacco groups disagree about the correct approach
Anti-tobacco groups are divided in their opinions over these regulations which have been described as “draconian”. SA is the last state in the country to introduce regulations around the sale and use of e-cigarettes and the first to ban their sale online or by mail.
The Cancer Council of SA is in favour of this bill. “One of the biggest problems with these products is the lack of evidence,” said spokesperson Alana Sparrow. “We really need to be clear about the long-term harms that can come from the use of electronic cigarettes. There is some evidence of young people using them as a gateway to traditional cigarettes.”
“If the tobacco companies were to put these products up before the Therapeutic Goods Administration and they were actually proven to be safe and effective in helping people to quit smoking, then that puts us in a different position,” she added.
Will these regulations promote smoking cessation?
However, the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), said that these regulations had gone too far. “This will destroy the local vaping industry,” said chairman Colin Mendelsohn. “That’s a problem for public health because vaping shops play an important role in helping people make that transition [away from tobacco].”
“People get advice and information about using the product safely and ongoing support, and if those vaping shops aren’t going to be available — which is likely because a lot of their business is online — we’re really making it harder for smokers to access safer alternatives to smoking,” added the Associate Professor.
Additionally, explained Mendelsohn, there actually is evidence that proves that the devices are safe smoking cessation tools. “Vaping has helped millions of people quit smoking overseas and there have been very large population studies that show that people who use vaping devices are much more likely to quit than people who don’t,” he said.
“Young people will of course be attracted to something new and interesting but the research internationally is quite clear that there is no evidence that vaping actually leads young people, who otherwise wouldn’t have smoked, to become smokers.”
E-cigs as effective smoking cessation tools
In line with Mendelsohn’s arguments, a UK study published last Summer, which investigated the success rate of smoking cessation via e-cigarettes, indicated that if smokers were to be provided with the devices at zero or minimal costs by smoking cessation services or any health providers, they would be more likely to quit.
The researchers distributed an e-cigarette to smokers as a replacement for regular cigarettes, and measured success rates at baseline, 30 days, 60 days and 90 days. “After 90 days, the complete abstinence rate was 36.5% from 0% at baseline. Frequency of daily smoking reduced from 88.7% to 17.5% (P<0.001) and median consumption of cigarettes/day from 15 to 5 (P<0.001),” they reported.
Read Further: ABC News