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Vaping is ‘next best thing” to quitting smoking, say public health experts

Public health officials in the United States remain resistant to officially endorsing vaping as a tobacco harm reduction tool, but scholastic experts abroad are growing increasingly more vocal.  In Australia, vaping is essentially banned.  While the purchasing of e-cig technology is not against the law, the nation’s Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies liquid nicotine as a poison.   Aussies can buy the technology, but they are legally restricted in their inability to purchase the e-liquids necessary to make their possible switch from smoking to vaping successful.

Last week, medical professionals met in Melbourne to address the issue of how best to support and promote a possible lifting of the government ban.  At the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs (APSAD) Conference, a major topic of discussion was how vaping technologies are currently helping millions of people to kick the habit of smoking combustible cigarettes. 

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Once again, the 2015 research published by Public Health England in the UK claiming that e-cigs are 95 percent less harmful than smoking was often cited as an opposing argument against the national ban.  Further arguments referenced the dramatic decline in UK smoking rates in recent years as England strives to create a smoke-free society by 2040 by more aggressively supporting vaping.   Meanwhile, Australian smoking rates are rapidly escalating.  

Public health experts from Queen Mary University weigh-in

If England can show such tremendous progress in reducing national smoking rates, why is Australia being so resistant?  This question is haunting many public health experts and members of the medical community in attendance at last week’s APSAD) Conference.  As reported by the Australian Associated Press (AAP), Professor Hayden McRobbie of Queen Mary University in London wonders if politics may be muddying the discussion.

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McRobbie openly questions whether the Australian health budget can support the increased lifespans of a theoretical Aussie society that might become increasingly less dependent on combustible tobacco.  Non-smokers live longer, and the extra healthcare costs of a non-smoking public citizenry with increased lifespans may be a contributing factor to the national ban against liquid nicotine.

“For those smokers who won’t or can’t quit, the next best thing would be to switch to vaping…While the long-term risks are not entirely clear, there is broad consensus now that they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. (Vaping) might offer another option to get to a smoke-free life. You do want policy measures encouraging people to move away from traditional smoking and you want to protect those that don’t smoke, like young people.”

Even though vaping is technically illegal in Australia, many people are flouting the law and purchasing e-liquids and e-cigs anyway.  If they are caught, they could face hefty fines or even jail time in the more extreme cases.  However, many Aussie vapers feel that their government is trying to penalize smokers for attempting to switch to a healthier choice in lifestyle.  One former smoker of thirty years, Alison Paul,  who recently switched to vaping three years ago, recounted her story recently to a reporter of ABC News Australia.

"I would smoke until I couldn't breathe, and I would smoke and cough, it felt like my ribs were going to break.”
"I felt like I had no way out of that circle. Then I started vaping a few days before my birthday three years ago and I haven't had a cigarette since."
"It's legal to import the nicotine in Australia, but the moment you take possession of it, it becomes illegal,"

“Basically, I’m a criminal for quitting smoking the only way I could. There’s many people, particularly older people, who aren’t willing to break the law to be vaping nicotine. I’m firmly of the belief that the Government has got people’s lives in their hands right now.”

More and more Australian physicians, medical professionals, and public health experts are openly criticizing the national government’s stance on vaping.  Much like in American, Aussie pro-vaping advocates are claiming that overly alarmist rhetoric by anti-vaping zealots is potentially costing millions of smoking-related deaths.

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