Former smokers who ditched the deadly habit by transitioning to vaping are petitioning lawmakers in Australia to open up access to smoking alternatives in the country.
Legalize Vaping Australia, an electronic cigarette advocacy group, is campaigning throughout the country in support of reforms to the country’s laws governing nicotine. While vapor devices themselves are legal in the country, the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies liquid nicotine as a poison, reports The Border Mail.
Meanwhile, cigarettes remain legal and the smoking population in Australia is increasing due to the restricted access to alternative technologies. Andrew Parkin, a former smoker who quit with a vape, said he was unable to quit cigarettes with standard methods and thought he would die from the habit until he tried vaping.
Parkin, who signed the petition from Legalize Vaping Australia, orders his liquid nicotine every three months from an online vendor in New Zealand to sidestep the restrictions. Using nicotine in a vaping devices is currently illegal throughout Australia.
“I thought I would never give up smoking, I thought I would die from them and then I heard about vaping and I haven’t had one since,” Parkin told The Border Mail. “I feel a lot fresher and a lot cleaner, I no longer cough up phlegm.”
Public health experts recently criticized current tobacco control policies from Australia’s Department of Health and the Australian Medical Association as “seriously flawed” and harming overall public health in the country.
Colin Mendelsohn, associate professor and tobacco treatment specialist at the University of New South Wales, argued in a Jan. 15 editorial for The Australian that federal regulators in Australia are largely relying on studies that are adversarial towards vaping, ignoring the larger body of research showing their immense benefit as a cessation tool.
Mendelsohn laments how the Australian stance on vapor products stands in “stark contrast” to the health care bodies of the United Kingdom. The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials say vaping is a big part of the reason.
The Royal College of Physicians agrees that using e-cigarettes eliminates most of the harms attributed to smoking. The medical body also recommends vaping for patients trying to quit traditional tobacco products. Vaping eliminates up to 95 percent of the risk associated with cigarettes because the majority of cancer-causing chemicals are inhaled through smoke, according to Public Health England.
“It is time for Australia to follow the lead of similar countries,” Mendelsohn says in the editorial. “Australia needs to embrace the new paradigm of vaping and leave the prohibitionist, abstinence-only policy (‘quit or die’) in the past where it belongs. The lives of hundreds of thousands of Australian smokers depend on it.”
Many smokers in the country are ignoring the law and using e-cigarettes to attempt quitting, but they still run the risk of legal trouble. Vapers in Australia say they feel like their government is persecuting them for making a health conscious choice.
Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely, that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of smokers quit worldwide.
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