Doctor calls for nationwide ban on cigarettes

5 October 2017

Written by: Jarryd Barca

The Victorian doctor instead calls for greater access to e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking.

A top Australian doctor is calling for a ban on cigarettes, with an American-based study showing over one million lives are bound to be saved through an alternative method.

Dr Marita Hefler, from the Menzies School of health, told The Age that the introduction of e-cigarettes – a battery-powered smoking device – is the logical solution.

“Any other consumer product that kills up to two-thirds of its long-term users remaining legal is unimaginable,” Dr Hefler said.

A new study by Georgetown University in Washington, D.C. found that millions of cigarette smokers could see an increase in life expectancy.

But there’s a catch – they must switch from tobacco to the alternative e-cigarette.

The study observed the health impacts of smokers who switched from cigarette smoking to vaping.

It is understood that as many as 6.6 million cigarette smokers will in total live an extra 86.7 million years if they make the switch to vaping.

Even in the worst-case scenario involving e-cigarettes, Georgetown University researchers found that “1.6 million of these former cigarette smokers will have a combined 20.8 million more years of life”.

e-cigarettes are emerging as an alternative to tobacco and cigarettes.

Researchers took into consideration the variables of smoking, including harm from e-cigarettes compared to cigarettes, as well as differences in the timing of smoking initiation, cessation and switching.

It is currently illegal to be in possession of e-cigarettes in Australia, with the device heating a nicotine juice into an aerosol which is then inhaled by the user. This is unless the device does not contain nicotine.

The sale and supply of nicotine is currently illegal in Victoria.

“Even if the political will had existed for a sales ban [of cigarettes], until recently, no products could match the nicotine delivery efficiency of combustible tobacco with substantially less harm, rendering a sales ban a non-viable option due to the risk of a black market,” Dr 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,” she said.

Considerable research is still required before the long-term effects of using e-cigarettes are discovered.

Dr Hefler recommends that e-cigarettes should be permitted in Australia with tight regulations to still be applied.

The National Drug Strategy Household Survey revealed that the regular use of e-cigarettes in Australia is limited.

The survey found that nearly one third of smokers (31 percent) had tried e-cigarettes in their lifetime, but the majority had only tried them once or twice (20 percent) and only 4.4 percent currently use them (the remaining 6.8 percent no longer use them).

According to The Tobacco Atlas, Approximately 80 percent of all deaths from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) are caused by smoking.

Tobacco kills more than seven million people worldwide each year.