Dr Colin Mendelsohn a medical practitioner and Tobacco Treatment Specialist at The Sydney Clinic in Bronte and Associate Professor in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales writes persuasively in The Sydney Morning Herald (May 12, 2016) why e-cigarettes should not be illegal in Australia.
Australian state and federal governments are currently developing legislation that Dr Mendelsohn argues will have life or death implications for hundreds of thousands of smokers in Australia. Due to nicotine being classified as a Schedule 7 dangerous poison, Australia currently has a de-facto ban on electronic cigarettes, and the nicotine e-liquid from which the vapour is produced. (It is however legal to purchase these products from overseas as long as they are for personal use.)
But nicotine itself has relatively minor health effects, and the vapour produced by an e-cigarette does not contain tobacco, tar, carbon dioxide and is generally agreed to be 95% safer to inhale than tobacco smoke. The UK Royal College of Physicians published a landmark report which concluded that e-cigarettes have the potential to make a significant contribution to preventing premature death and disease caused by smoking, debunks many of the myths about e-cigarettes, and is encouraging the use of electronic cigarettes for smokers.
As Dr Mendelsohn says, prohibition is not working in Australia, and decisions on how to regulate electronic cigarettes should be informed by evidence, not ideology or bias. Some public health organisations, having spent decades trying to destroy the tobacco and nicotine industries, can find it difficult to see that nicotine may be part of the solution. He finds it concerning that a discussion paper being prepared by the Cancer Council and the Public Health Unit at Sydney University, both of which have previously expressed negative views on vaping, is being written without any public consultation.
Instead of prohibition, Dr Mendelsohn calls for regulation for electronic cigarettes as consumer products, not as tobacco or medicines. Appropriate regulations, such as advertising and sales restrictions for people under 18, child resistant containers and manufacturing standards could all ensure that products are safe and fit for purpose, and keep costs reasonable so that vaping products can compete in the marketplace with tobacco products.