Former smokers using a vaping device in West Australia risk being fined tens of thousands of dollars if caught with an electronic cigarette that contains nicotine.
The liquid nicotine used in vapor products is illegal across Australia, but penalties for violating the ban vary widely in different parts of the country. Fines for being caught with liquid nicotine range from $1,500 to $7,773 Australian dollars in all parts of the country except for West Australia, where vapers face a fine of $45,000 Australian dollars, reports The West Australian.
The mammoth fine equates to nearly $35,500 U.S. dollars, something public health experts in the country say is an indefensible penalty. Despite the risks, roughly 3.1 percent of Australians age 14 and up have tried an electronic cigarette.
“Anecdotal evidence suggests that many West Australians are unaware that nicotine e-cigarettes are illegal in Australia, and that selling a device that resembles a tobacco product is illegal in WA,” said Labor MLA Janine Freeman, according to The West Australian. “For the time being at least, we have to work around a nonsensical regulation that allows the sale of nicotine for indisputably harmful tobacco products but not for a product which is widely regarded as less harmful.”
While vapor devices themselves are legal in the country, the government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies liquid nicotine as a poison. Meanwhile, cigarettes remain legal and smoking rate declines in Australia have plateaued due to the restricted access to alternative technologies.
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.
Many smokers in the country continue to ignore the law and are 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.
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