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Steve Birr

Health experts are petitioning the government of Australia to lift their ban on vaping fluid, arguing that the healthier alternative can help save millions of lives.

Medical professionals addressed the issue at the Australasian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs Conference in Melbourne Monday, which included discussion on how smoke-free technologies are helping scores of smokers in other countries ditch the deadly habit. Nicotine juice is currently illegal in Australia, rendering electronic cigarettes useless for smokers interested in transitioning to a less harmful option, reports AAP.

Public health experts say vaping largely eliminates the harms from conventional cigarettes because 95 percent of the carcinogens that cause tobacco-related illnesses are released through combustion. E-cigarettes simply heat liquid nicotine, creating an aerosol vapor.

“For those smokers who won’t or can’t quit, the next best thing would be to switch to vaping,” Hayden McRobbie, a professor at Queen Mary University, told AAP. “While the long-term risks are not entirely clear, there is broad consensus now that they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. 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.”

The Australian government’s Therapeutic Goods Administration classifies liquid nicotine as a poison. Smokers looking to ditch cigarettes for a healthier alternative are legally allowed to buy vaping devices but are barred from using the fluid necessary to successfully quit. Meanwhile, cigarettes remain legal and the smoking population in Australia is increasing due to the restricted access to alternative technologies.

Many smokers in the country are ignoring the law and using e-cigarettes to attempt quitting, but they still run the risk of getting into legal trouble. Vapers in Australia say they feel like their government is persecuting them for making a health conscious choice. Australian doctors in favor of e-cigarettes note the positive impact vaping has had on the smoking populations in the U.K. and U.S., where smoking rates are declining.

Advocates of smoking alternatives say alarmism over vaping misses the larger point about e-cigarettes, namely that they are a harm reduction tool helping millions of smokers quit worldwide.

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