Australia is currently financing trials on e-cigarettes as a safe and permanent alternative for tobacco smoking. If data favours e-cigs, Australia might become the first country to charge smoking as a crime. The government has pledged more that USD 1 million to the pioneer study that will determine by 2015 whether or not electronic cigarettes can be used to gradually phase out traditional tobacco consumption from the country.
Coral Gartner leads the study of 1,600 smokers at the University of Queensland’s centre for clinical research. She believes that the trials can explore electronic cigarettes’ potential to maximise public health. Users might have to shell out a certain amount initially for its starter kit which can be bought legally in the country, except for the ones laced with nicotine. It is classified as a dangerous poison and has to be retailed under license or bought overseas.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered gadgets that heat nicotine solution into a vapour which the user can inhale. These have been touted as a safer substitute as there is no smoke associated or other cancer-causing chemicals involved. At present, there is no comprehensive scientific study done on the health hazards that might be associated with using e-cigs.
Other countries have not been accommodating. In May, the French government banned the use of e-cigs in public which enraged millions of users in the country. It justified its ruling by quoting that there have been undetected carcinogenic components in the vapours that are in levels higher than traditional smokes. On the other hand, a US study in March found that there were some toxins and carcinogens detected but lower than those in cigarette smoke. Steve Hambledon of the Australian Medical Association warned that while it may help people quit, the unregulated industry of e-cigs might actually recruit new smokers.