Australian lives could be saved if smokers are encouraged to switch to vapes or e-cigarettes, leading health experts say.
Health professionals gathered in Melbourne on Monday to hear how the smoke-free technology could help smokers move away from deadly cigarettes.
“For those smokers who won’t or can’t quit, the next best thing would be to switch to vaping,” Queen Mary University professor Hayden McRobbie told AAP.
He says it may not save the Australian government’s health budget in the long term – as non-smokers live longer – but it has the potential to save lives.
E-cigarettes or vapes can still contain nicotine, which is addictive, but they do not burn or emit toxic smoke into the lungs, Prof McRobbie said.
Nicotine for vapes is not legally allowed to be sold in Australia, but some vapers import it from overseas.
University of New South Wales professor Colin Mendelsohn said vapes containing nicotine and mimicking the sensory aspects of smoking allowed users to replicate the experience without the toxic fumes.
“The sooner these products are legalised in Australia, the more lives will be saved,” Prof Mendelsohn told AAP.
New Zealand is planning to legalise the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes in order to regulate them as consumer products from mid-2018.
“While the long-term risks are not entirely clear, there is broad consensus now that they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes,” Prof McRobbie said.
“This (vaping) might offer another option to get to a smoke-free life.
“You do want policy measures encouraging people to move away from traditional smoking and you want to protect those that don’t smoke, like young people.”
Both professors have run studies into the benefits of e-cigarettes, confirming they get no money from the tobacco or e-cigarette industries.
The pair are in Melbourne as part of the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference, where Prof McRobbie gave a keynote speech.