New research from the Australasian Association of Convenience Stores (AACS) has found that more than half of Australians believe the issue could influence their vote.
The industry group has been outspoken about the need to develop a framework to govern the legal sale of e-cigarettes to provide more alternatives for smokers looking to kick the habit.
According to new study conducted by AACS, which it says is the most extensive and wide-ranging ever undertaken on the topic of e-cigarettes in Australia, found 54 per cent of Australians view the legalisation of e-cigarettes as a potential vote-influencing or even vote-changing issue.
A total of 4,000 Australians aged 18 years and over were surveyed by independent research company, The Sexton Marketing Group, with a mix of non-smokers, current and ex-smokers involved, including people from smoking and non-smoking households.
Overall, 41 per cent of people support the legalisation of e-cigarettes as a health initiative. This spikes to 62 per cent when prefaced by the fact they are 95 per cent safer than smoke tobacco. Among smokers, 68 per cent support legalisation “as a health initiative” but support jumps to 79 per cent “if they are 95 per cent safer”.
“Nothing piques a politician’s interest more than votes. This research covers a sample size around three times as large as typical news poll and everyone involved is on the electoral roll,” AACS CEO, Jeff Rogut, said.
“Given the results clearly demonstrate overwhelming community support for the legalisation of e-cigarettes, with very little opposition, there’s nothing preventing this issue being moved to the top of the policy agenda.
“In fact, the results are so strongly in favour of legalising e-cigarettes that state governments and oppositions could reach a bipartisan agreement immediately, safe in the knowledge that the vast majority of voters would welcome the move.
“Doing so would garner significant support from the electorate. Not doing so could be politically damaging for politicians and parties that continue to sit on their hands,” he said.
According to AACS, the reasons for the strength of support to legalise e-cigarettes are numerous. Based on the research, among the most compelling are:
• To help smokers cut down or quit smoking altogether.
• So family members of smokers including children don’t have to live in a smoke-filled environment.
• To reduce the burden on the health system, freeing up hospital beds and money for other patients awaiting treatment.
AACS says the development of a framework to govern the legal sale of e-cigarettes is necessary to bring Australia in line with the rest of the world.
Earlier this year, Public Health England and numerous other UK public health organisations released a joint statement on developing a public health consensus on e-cigarettes, products they state “are the most popular quitting tool in the country with more than 10 times as many people using them than using local stop smoking services”.
“If e-cigarettes have the potential to assist even a proportion of smokers to reduce or quit smoking tobacco, then we need to give these products a chance to help Australians,” Mr Rogut said.
“We risk being left behind in an international sense if don’t make these products available to people who could benefit from their use.”
Mr Rogut added there is a small but growing black market for illicit e-cigarette products, emphasising the urgent need to develop a proper legal framework.
“Convenience stores are proven responsible retailers of restricted products like lottery tickets and conventional tobacco. With grounding in proper training and compliance, our operators are ideally placed to responsibly sell e-cigarettes and provide adult consumers a healthier, safer choice,” Mr Rogut said.
The AACS has identified several key considerations in the legalisation of e-cigarettes, including restrictions in sales to minors, ensuring e-cigarettes and associated products are child tamper proof, contain an ingredients list, comply with quality standards and are manufactured and sold with strict safety standards in place.