Lawmakers in Australia voted to uphold a national ban on vaping Tuesday, even as the country experiences a historic surge in its number of smokers.
The Federal Senate’s Community Affairs Legislation Committee in Australia opted to keep the ban in place, claiming there is not enough evidence on the long term health impacts of vaping devices. They argue further scientific study is needed before they risk exposing their citizens to liquid nicotine, the key element of e-cigarettes that help smokers quit, reports ABC Australia.
Medical experts focused on harm reduction argue keeping in place a ban on the possession of liquid nicotine undermines public health. Smokers looking to ditch cigarettes for a healthier alternative are legally allowed to buy vaping devices in Australia, but are barred from using the fluid necessary to successfully quit.
Doctors in the country and representatives of British American Tobacco addressed a federal parliamentary committee July 12 to highlight the health benefits of vaping and how continued restrictions risk the health of Australian citizens. As vaping prohibition continues in the country, smoking rates are soaring.
An analysis of the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare released Aug. 14 shows that the smoking rate did not decline in 2016 for the first time since officials began tracking records. The smoking population rose by 21,100 between 2013 and 2016 after years of massive declines, despite the country’s strict tax and regulatory restrictions on tobacco.
Public health experts argue the tough measures are no longer influencing smokers to ditch the habit, and say policy makers need to shift tactics and embrace vaping if they want to help the smoking population in the future.
“This is despite plain packaging and the most expensive cigarette prices in the world,” Colin Mendelsohn, an expert on public health at the University of New South Wales, told The Australian Aug. 14. “But we’re left with established, older smokers who can’t or won’t quit. The strategy of higher prices isn’t working for them.”
Many smokers in the country are ignoring the law and using e-cigarettes to attempt quitting, but they still run the risk of getting into legal trouble. Vapers in Australia say they feel like their government is persecuting them for making a health conscious choice. Australian doctors in favor of e-cigarettes note the positive impact vaping has had on the smoking populations in the U.K. and U.S., where smoking rates are declining.
A study commissioned by the European Union in 2014 found roughly six million European smokers had quit cigarettes by using vaping devices. A study from the University of California released July 26 shows the rate of smokers quitting in the U.S. has recently increased due to the growing popularity of vaping.
Between 2014 and 2015, roughly 350,000 U.S. smokers quit cigarettes.
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