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Vaping can be valuable. So why is it illegal?

Posted on May 30, 2019

Herald Sun RendezVous, 30 May 2019.

Australia is the only western democracy to ban the sale and use of nicotine for vaping.

Vaping is contributing to rapidly falling smoking rates in the US and UK. However, in Australia, smoking rates have stagnated since 2013, despite Australia having the highest cigarette prices in the world, plain packaging and strict tobacco control measures.

Most experts agree that vaping is a far less harmful alternative to smoking for adult smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit nicotine with conventional treatments.

Vaping products (e-cigarettes) heat a liquid nicotine solution into a vapour which the user inhales. Vaping provides the nicotine which smokers crave, but without the tar, carbon monoxide and other toxins that cause almost all the harm to health.

A recent randomised controlled trial found that vaping nicotine was almost twice as effective in helping smokers quit cigarettes as nicotine replacement therapy such as nicotine patches and gum.

It is no surprise therefore that vaping is the most popular quitting method in countries where it is available, such as in the UK, US, EU and Canada. Former smokers can continue to enjoy nicotine and an experience similar to smoking, but without the harm caused by burning tobacco.

However, Australia has imposed a de facto ban on this safer alternative and vapers are faced with penalties of up to $45,000 or two years in jail in some states.

Australian health authorities focus on the small, potential risks of vaping, the possible long-term harm and the unproven risk to young people and bystanders. While legitimate concerns, these issues need to be balanced against the substantial health benefits for smokers who switch to vaping and the many lives that could be saved. Continuing smokers risk a two in three chance of dying prematurely from smoking.

However, all is not lost. The three million Australian smokers will have the opportunity to find out more about legal access to vaping today (May 30, 2019), the first ever Aussie Vape Day.

Aussie Vape Day promotes tobacco harm reduction (switching to less harmful alternatives to smoking such as vaping) and is followed by World No Tobacco Day tomorrow (May 31, 2019, which encourages quitting.

Quitting is always the preferred option.

However, for smokers who can’t quit, and there are many, switching to vaping can help.

Nothing on this planet is risk-free but the UK Royal College of Physicians estimates vaping is at least 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.

It is also a lot cheaper. Cigarette prices have tripled in Australia in the past 10 years and the high prices are causing financial pain for many smokers who are unable to quit.

Vaping is about 10 per cent of the cost of smoking. A 20-pack a day smoker will save at least $9000 per year on average by switching.

Adult smokers are encouraged to visit their GP to discuss whether vaping is appropriate for them.

Under the TGA Personal Importation Scheme, it is permissible to import nicotine liquid to assist in quitting if the user has a prescription from a registered medical practitioner. Currently very few have a prescription.

Vaping is only recommended for smokers and is not for nonsmokers or young people under 18 years of age.

Aussie Vape Day is being organised by three non-profit organisations, the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), Legalise Vaping Australia and the New Nicotine Alliance Australia.

The campaign will feature a dedicated website with information about vaping and how to make the switch, educational videos including one by celebrity vaper Joe Hildebrand, testimonial videos, case studies, media and social media promotion.

Smokers can find out more about Aussie Vape Day by visiting

If you can’t quit, switching to vaping could save you a packet.

Colin Mendelsohn is a Conjoint Associate Professor at the University of New South Wales School of Public Health and Community Medicine and the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association chairman.

Published in Rendezvous in the Herald Sun here (subscribers only), 30 May 2019. 

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One Reply to “Vaping can be valuable. So why is it illegal?”


It has been 18 months to the day that I had the last cigarette out of a packet. This was whilst putting together my first vape kit. I added my vape juice of 18mg and have not touched a cigarette since. As of today, I vape a 3mg juice and still have the satisfaction of the 'hit' when I draw. During this time my taste and smell sensations are sharper and I don't have the smokers cough!!
All these so called 'vape police' are deterring wanna be cigarette quitters from doing so. Why ban something that I believe will help nicotine dependent people from over dependency. My case in point.
I may be out of line with this next comment, but I think the government don't know how to tax this if they decide to make nicotine vaping legal. Tax this and then they would have to tax nicotine gum and mouth sprays, wouldn't they?
Keep the fight going guys

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