A top public health researcher is floating the idea of a ban on combustible cigarettes in the wake of a study showing that alternative nicotine delivery technologies could prevent the premature deaths of millions of smokers.
Dr. Marita Hefler, a researcher with the Menzies School of Health Research in Australia, is suggesting a change to current law in the country that would ban cigarettes and open up access to vaping devices and heat-not-burn products. Hefler recently wrote a commentary on a study released Oct. 2 by the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center that investigated the potential for eradicating smoking in the U.S. through the promotion of alternative technologies for nicotine delivery, reports Vaping Post.
The study shows that if vaping were to largely replace smoking, roughly 6.6. million smokers would avoid premature death and collectively add 86.7 million extra years to their lives.
The Australian government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies liquid nicotine as a poison. Smokers looking to ditch cigarettes for a healthier alternative are legally allowed to buy vaping devices but are barred from using the fluid necessary to successfully quit. Meanwhile, cigarettes remain legal and the smoking population in Australia is increasing due to the restricted access to alternative technologies.
“Any other consumer product that kills up to two-thirds of its long-term users remaining legal is unimaginable,” Hefler told The Age. “E-cigarettes, and more recently heat-not-burn tobacco products, most closely mimic, and therefore have the greatest potential to displace combustible tobacco. While they are not harmless they are almost certainly lower risk than cigarettes for current smokers.”
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 that roughly 6 million European smokers had quit cigarettes by using vaping devices.
Americans are increasingly turning to electronic cigarettes as a way to quit smoking, according to federal data showing that former smokers made up 34 percent of all vapers in 2016.
A paper released Sept. 28 by the free-market think tank R Street Institute reveals that the overall vaping population in the U.S. declined for the second straight year in 2016, while the share of the population that are former smokers increased, rising from 2.49 million to 2.62 million Americans in 2016.
Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that Dr. Marita Hefler did not work as a researcher on the study from the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center at Georgetown University Medical Center. Dr. Hefler wrote a commentary on the study.
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