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CSIRO report provides strong support for legalising vaping

Posted on August 10, 2018

A recent report by the CSIRO, E-cigarettes, smoking and health provides strong support for vaping as a way of reducing the harm from smoking in Australia.

The 400-page scientific review of the literature was funded by the Australian Commonwealth Department of Industry, Innovation and Science. The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) is an Australian government agency.

The report finds that there are health benefits for smokers who switch to vaping and that uptake by non-smokers and young people is rare. The net benefit from that is positive for public health.

Some of the key findings of the report are:

Switching from smoking to e-cigarettes is likely to improve health and reduce exposure to fewer harmful chemicals and toxins

  • ‘when e-cigarettes are used by smokers instead of conventional cigarettes there is evidence for improvement in individual health’.
  • ‘the level of specific carcinogenic compounds and resulting metabolites is lower in humans after e-cigarette use compared to conventional cigarette use’

Australian smokers are using these products for the right reason and that they are a popular aid for reducing the harm from smoking

  • ‘the most common reason for using e-cigarettes was to quit or reduce smoking’
  • ‘smokers preferred to quit using e-cigarettes instead of other established cessation methods’.

As a result, vaping products are likely to have a wide reach and larger public health effect

There is very little risk of e-cigarettes of being a gateway into smoking for young Australian non-smokers

  • 'While there has been considerable interest in whether the use of e-cigarettes can result in a gateway effect to use of conventional cigarettes (especially in young people), the evidence for this being an important route to smoking initiation in Australia does not appear strong. The majority of e-cigarette use in young Australians appears to be short term experimentation out of curiosity. Most ‘ever users’ of e-cigarettes have used them once or twice and then not again'

The fears of uptake by adult non-smokers are not being realised and regular use by non-smokers is rare

  • 'In Australia, only a small percentage (4%) of never smokers have reported using e-cigarettes, and most of these people have used them once or twice only'
  • ‘Only a very small percentage (about 0.5%) of current or ex-smokers of regular cigarettes had used e-cigarettes prior to their use of regular cigarettes. In Australia, only a small percentage (4%) of never smokers have reported using e-cigarettes, and most of these people have used them once or twice only. Less than 1% of never smokers have used e-cigarettes on a more intensive basis than once or twice'

E-cigarettes help smokers switch from combustible tobacco

  • ‘Results from randomised controlled trials indicate that nicotine-containing e-cigarettes are more effective at reducing the amount of conventional smoking than … no e-cigarettes’
  • It describes large population studies in the US that show that daily use is associated with 3-8x the chance of quitting, however chooses not to give this any special attention. Daily use is the key to quitting. Studies which do not differentiate daily from non-daily use are not helpful as they include many experimenters who are not trying to quit.

What next?

Based on these findings, there is a clear need for the government to act now and make vaping legally available as a less harmful alternative for smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit. There is a clear net benefit for public health.

The report also identifies that there are potential risks from vaping. The government needs to introduce regulations to mitigate these risks, for example setting quality and safety standards, a minimum age of sale, child-proof e-liquid containers etc. An unregulated market creates its own risks and these can be largely resolved.

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3 Replies to “CSIRO report provides strong support for legalising vaping”

Michael Ayling

I think this CSIRO document might have been updated. Flip to page 107 in the link here:

It says the opposite to what you quoted with regard to “Gateway” effects. The link posted for the literature review is a dead end, with a link to the June 22nd 2018 review on that page, in which a strong correlation between vaping and subsequent smoking uptake is shown and that according to conventional analysis techniques, the correlation is considered to be causative.


HI Michael,
One of the criticisms about the CSIRO report is that the Executive Summary does not match the findings in the report. You are quoting the Executive Summary, however the conclusions in the report are very different. See page 229 for the actual findings of the report on the gateway theory.


Thanks for picking up the changed link to the report. I have corrected that.

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