Why we need to regulate electronic cigarettes

Why does Cancer Council believe we need to regulate e-cigarettes?

Download Cancer Council’s Position Statement on e-cigarettes

1. The health impacts are unknown

E-cigarettes are probably less harmful to health than traditional cigarettes, but they are not harmless and the short and long term health effects are not yet known. It is a serious concern that products currently on the market in Australia have not been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration for safety, quality or efficacy.

Although unlawful, most e-cigarettes and e-liquids that are available for purchase in NSW do contain nicotine (see the NSW Ministry of Health’s Health Alert). Nicotine is a Schedule 7 Poison meaning that it is a substance “of exceptional danger which require[s] special precautions in…manufacture, packaging, storage and use”. It is unfair and unsafe that consumers of all ages are unknowingly purchasing and consuming nicotine – a dangerous poison and highly addictive drug.

Use of e-cigarettes may also be a risk to bystanders who are exposed to small particles (particulate matter) contained in the vapour. Exposure to this particulate matter may worsen existing illnesses or increase the risk of developing cardiovascular and respiratory diseases. Contrary to the common belief, vapour produced by e-cigarettes is not just water vapour.

2. E-cigarettes have not been proven to help people quit smoking

No e-cigarette or e-liquid has been proven to help people stop smoking. The appropriate avenue for determining the effectiveness e-cigarettes as a cessation aid is the Therapeutic Goods Administration. The onus is with the e-cigarette company to prove the effectiveness and safety of their product to the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

Unsubstantiated claims that e-cigarettes can help people quit smoking are unfair to consumers and risk to tobacco control efforts.

3. Electronic cigarettes appeal to children

An increasing body of evidence points to a risk that widespread electronic cigarette use could undo the decades of public policy work in Australia that has reduced the appeal of cigarette use in children. E-cigarettes look like modern everyday items and come in sweet, fruity and confectionery flavours which undoubtedly appeal to children and youth. In one study with young American adults e-cigarettes were described as “one of several ‘toys for smoking”.

In both the United States and New Zealand an alarming trend towards e-cigarette use among youth has been observed. In the Unites States one study found that use (at least one in the last 30 days) tripled among middle and high school students between 2013 – 2014. Recent research from New Zealand  also reported a three-fold increase in e-cigarette ever use among year 10 students between 2012 – 2014.

4. Electronic cigarettes could lead to tobacco use

There is a risk that e-cigarette use could act as a gateway to nicotine addiction and tobacco smoking. A recent Polish study found evidence in support of this, finding parallel increases in e-cigarette use and smoking prevalence among Polish youth in 2013-14, compared with 2010-11 data. In addition research conducted on behalf of the Irish Cancer Society found that 5% of smokers had begun using e-cigarettes before they switched to traditional cigarettes. Further research is required to explore the nature of this relationship and to determine whether this pattern also exists in the Australian context.

5. Major tobacco companies have invested in electronic cigarettes

Major tobacco companies are investing heavily in e-cigarettes as a product line and are using sophisticated marketing strategies that were previously used to glamorise and promote smoking to young people. Dr Becky Freeman outlines the risks associated with Big Tobacco’s involvement in the e-cigarette market in this article.

6. The NSW community supports regulating electronic cigarettes

A survey of 1,001 NSW adults found strong community support for regulating e-cigarettes in these ways, with 73% agreeing that similar restrictions to cigarettes and tobacco products should apply to e-cigarettes. To read more about community support for e-cigarette regulation click here

More information:

What are electronic cigarettes?
Are electronic cigarettes legal in NSW?
What is Cancer Council NSW’s policy position on electronic cigarettes?
Other useful information on electronic cigarettes