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Australian Scientists Encourage Vaping

The government in Australia is still holding fast on an odd set of laws that doesn't necessarily outlaw vaping but does place a blanket ban on liquid nicotine. As evidence of vaping's efficacy in reducing the public health hazards of tobacco use, more and more scientists are urging politicians and health officials to take another look at how Australians vape.


Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration, which plays a role similar to the federal Food and Drug Administration here in the US, classifies liquid nicotine as a poison. In certain applications, they're right – plants from tobacco to broccoli to tomatoes all produce nicotine as a means of natural pesticide, discouraging predatory insects from eating them. Concentrated nicotine has also been applied to other crops as a means of bug control, and it can even be toxic to humans in concentrations of as little as 10% purity (100 mg/ml of liquid). At considerably lower doses (0.3% to 1.2% being the most popular concentrations in e-liquid), however, nicotine acts as a mild stimulant comparable to caffeine. These are the dosages health experts say should be given consideration as a tobacco cessation aid.


Dr. Marita Hefler, a researcher with the Menzies School of Health Research in Australia, is one of the scientists that for more than a year has been petitioning the Administration to declassify liquid nicotine at concentrations of less than 3.6%, which would clear the way for just about all vaping liquids with the exception of JUUL cigalike pods, which contain nicotine in excess of 5%.


As part of her logic, she points to a study from Washington, DC-based Georgetown University that projects more than 6.6 million lives would be saved stateside if a significant majority of current smokers were to transition entirely to vaping. Hefler suggests that, if anything, vaping with nicotine should be legalized and tobacco products should be the banned substances.


"Any other consumer product that kills up to two-thirds of its long-term users remaining legal is unimaginable," Hefler says in an interview with *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."


Vapers in Australia, meanwhile, say they feel persecuted by their own government for attempting to make positive lifestyle changes. Despite facing potential legal consequences, many surreptitiously import their own nicotine to add to the zero-nic juices they can legally obtain locally.


While Hefler closes with a hedge, calling as most doctors do for continuing research into the long-term effects of vaping, it's worth noting that roughly half of tobacco users end up dying from illnesses related to their habit, as many as seven million each year on a global scale. It's hard to imagine any attempt to reduce those numbers would be met with such resistance.