This article was originally written by Jeff Rogut, CEO of AACS aacs.org.au.
Already on the record as supporting the use of eCigarettes to help people quit, Public Health England (PHE) has released an updated independent review into the use of eCigarettes and the findings couldn’t be clearer: eCigarettes pose a fraction of the risks of smoking and switching completely from smoking to vaping conveys substantial health benefits.
The PHE findings put the ball firmly in Health Minister Greg Hunt’s court, says the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS), because Australian smokers are currently unable to legally purchase a product with the potential to drastically improve their health, help them quit, and even save their lives.
AACS CEO Jeff Rogut says the new PHE independent review is the most compelling reason to date for the Australian Government to urgently develop a legal framework for the sale of eCigarettes as a means of helping people kick the habit of traditional tobacco smoking.
“In other nations around the world, Governments have provided the choice for smokers to access eCigarettes as a safer alternative than smoking traditional tobacco, and as a means to help them quit altogether. It has worked,” Mr Rogut says.
“In Australia, we are preventing people from enjoying the same choice. At this critical time when we should be making it easier for people to quit, our Government and various major medical bodies have deemed it appropriate to make it more difficult for Australians to quit smoking by denying them access to products with the potential to help.
“It’s frankly embarrassing that we are so far behind the rest of the world when it comes to helping our citizens access safer products. All the available international evidence demonstrates the opportunities to improve public health outcomes that eCigarettes, as part of a coordinated range of measures, can deliver.
“ECigarettes have helped millions of people quit smoking internationally yet the Department of Health continues to take a different view of their potential here. And it’s a view at odds with most Australian voters too,” Mr Rogut says.
AACS research into this area shows Australians are overwhelmingly in support of legalising eCigarettes if they can help smokers quit. More than half of Australians feeling so strongly about the issue that it could influence their vote.
The AACS research – the most extensive ever undertaken on the topic of eCigarettes in Australia – shows that 54% of Australians view the legalisation of eCigarettes as a potential vote-influencing or even vote-changing issue. It also shows that 73% of Australians would support the legalisation of eCigarettes to help smokers quit.
The AACS has identified several key considerations in the legalisation of eCigarettes, including restrictions in sales to minors, ensuring they are child tamper proof, contain an ingredients list, comply with quality standards and are manufactured and sold with strict safety standards in place.
But the urgency to develop and implement such a framework cannot be overstated, Mr Rogut says.
“If the Australian Government and the health lobby are serious about reducing the incidence of smoking in the community, then we must provide smokers more options. ECigarettes have been found to be safer than traditional tobacco smoking and they have been proven to help people quit,” Mr Rogut says.