Quitting Smoking Could Make You A Criminal In Australia
For smokers in Australia who are trying to quit the habit, electronic cigarettes are both a blessing and a curse for one simple reason: while it can be successfully used as a smoking cessation method, e-cigarettes are currently illegal in the country. The laws are also so confounding that people don’t know how, or when, they are breaking the law, making criminals out of many ordinary citizens.
The fight against vaping is causing many Australians sleepless nights, including Joe Hildebrand, a former smoker who turned to e-cigarettes to kick his 25-year-old smoking habit. According to news.com.au, Hildebrand kicked his smoking habit six months ago and in the process has violated the country’s laws.
In an editorial Hildebrand wrote for the news site, he mentions his own family history of addiction, including alcohol and narcotics, and how he fought from the brink over the years to be left with just one bad habit: smoking traditional cigarettes. It was a habit he picked up at 15, and one he continued through his 40th birthday.
However, the creation of vaping helped Hildebrand finally kick the habit, as it has done for millions of people around the world.
In fact, the European Union had a study that was done that revealed that over six million people had quit smoking by using e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation method. Even the UK Royal College of Physicians has recommended the practice of e-cigarettes as a nicotine replacement therapy, stating that: “in the interests of public health, it is important to promote the use of e-cigarettes … as widely as possible as a substitute for smoking”.
Unfortunately for Hildebrand and the 2.6 million smokers in Australia, buying an e-cigarette with nicotine in it is a violation of the country’s laws.
And the laws are not just restrictive, they’re confusing. In Australia, it is a crime to buy e-cigarettes with nicotine in them, but it is possible to buy e-cigarettes without nicotine. In some parts of the country, it’s illegal to even purchase e-cigarettes but it is legal to use them; if this isn’t confusing enough, it is also illegal to buy nicotine but legal to import it.
And, as Hildebrand says, it’s even illegal to talk about vaping. In the NSW Public Health (Tobacco) Act of 2008, the law states that it is illegal for any “writing, or any still or moving picture, sign, symbol or other visual image or message or audible message, or a combination of two or more of them, that gives publicity to, or otherwise promotes or is intended to promote the purchase or use of an e-cigarette.”
So why does this matter? Why does Australia make it illegal to use e-cigarettes as a nicotine replacement therapy? More importantly, why isn’t the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which regulates nicotine in the country, listening to international health experts like Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, an associate professor at the School of Public Health, when it comes to understanding how e-cigarettes are helping Australians?
Unfortunately, no one seems to know right now. No one is advocating that e-cigarettes should be promoted to non-smokers, but the fact that it has been proven by other governments and independent scientists to be a great way to quit smoking should be enough to push Australia in the right direction.
But the TGA seems to have come to the conclusion that nicotine in e-cigarettes should be illegal, at least for the time being. While this means that advocates like Hildebrand and others are now criminals in the eyes of the government, there is a far larger issue: the smokers who won’t receive the benefit of e-cigarettes to help them quit.
“We’ve got hundreds of thousands of people out there,” Mendelsohn said in an interview with Hildebrand. “They’re fathers and mothers and brothers and sisters and sons and daughters and we know two out of three of them will die prematurely from smoking…It’s not just a policy issue — people’s lives are at stake.”