With the sending of a bulk email to students, the years of rumours were proven correct,:the University of Tasmania would ban smoking on campus from the 31st of May, World No Tobacco Day. The plan as detailed on the University’s ‘Smoke-Free’ website is that by the 31st of December 2019, no smoking will be permitted on campus with little or none of the newly designated smoking areas retained. The ban doesn’t come as a surprise to many of us, the University had remained one of the only in the country to continue to allow smoking on campus, and the ban follows the continued restriction of smoking in public places pushed by health agencies and anti-smoking charities such as the Heart Foundation and the Cancer Council.
The University’s marketing makes it clear. It views all smoking products in the same vein, whether it be traditional cigarettes or e-cigarettes they will be subject to the same rules. But what the University fails to note is despite the ban on campus, e-cigarettes and the act of vaping nicotine is currently illegal throughout Australia and can carry penalties of up $45,000 and/or 2 years in prison.
But why does this matter? We all know that smoking kills, 500 a year in Tasmania alone, and the best solution to help reduce harm is to simply quit. But for many, particularly long-term smokers, this is harder than it sounds. That is where e-cigarettes come into the equation. While vaping delivers the nicotine, which helps satisfy smokers cravings, it doesn’t contain the deadly tar and additional dangerous particles generated by conventional cigarettes. As a result, they are 95% safer than traditional smoking. A safer choice yes, but still a dangerous one. That is until you look further into the research.
Our University, health agencies and anti-smoking charities are quick to point to options such as QUIT Tasmania, a successful program which works for many, however these services, unfortunately, don’t work for everyone. That’s why international public health authorities are looking to vaping as another quit smoking tool. Research conducted by the European Union last year showed that over six million adults had successfully quit smoking through the aid of switching to e-cigarettes. A similar review conducted by Public Health England using leading independent tobacco experts showed that e-cigarettes could be contributing to at least 20,000 successful quits per year and possibly many more in England alone. The review showed that e-cigarettes have far higher effective rates than other nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gums stating that “[e-cigarettes] have quickly become the most common aid that smokers in England use to help them stop smoking.”
Back in Australia, vapers who may be looking to quit, or just for the safer option, find themselves in a situation that incentivises self-mixed nicotine solutions under unregulated conditions or using black-market products. These products include popular 99% nicotine solutions accessible for purchase online, distributing primarily from China, which can carry the risk of contamination or overdose for users. Legalising and regulating vaping would help fight the threat of these black-market businesses, and dealers pose on Australian vapers.
There is no doubt the continual goal of those concerned with health care, like our University, should be to reduce the number of smokers, but the strategy of prohibition is a poor one. Instead, we should embrace new, safer alternatives to smoking, like e-cigarettes because continuing the campaign to ban smoking, may do more harm than good.
Clark Cooley is President of the University of Tasmania Liberal Students. He tweets @ClarkCooley.