A major international study into e-cigarettes has prompted Australian healthcare professionals to encourage smokers to switch to vaping, given the potential for great health improvements.
Hayden McRobbie, Professor of Public Health Interventions at Queen Mary University of London, UK, said ditching smoking was the "the best thing" smokers could do to improve their health.
“For those smokers who won’t or can’t quit, the next best thing would be to switch to vaping,” he said.
Professor McRobbie is a co-author of the influential Cochrane Review into e-cigarettes which found e-cigarettes can help people to quit smoking but conceded the evidence is weak due to limited data.
“I think Australia is missing a huge public health opportunity in its opposition to e-cigarettes,” Professor McRobbie added.
“While the long-term risks are not entirely clear, there is broad consensus now that they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes.
“And unlike second hand smoke there are no identified health risks to by-standers.”
After consulting with Professor McRobbie, the New Zealand Ministry of Health is set to legalise the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes with appropriate regulations from mid-2018.
Pressure is now mounting against position taken by most Australian health groups in relation to e-cigarettes.
Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of NSW has urged the Australian medical community to follow suit.
“It good to see New Zealand following the scientific evidence and the lead of the UK, where e-cigarettes have now helped over two million smokers quit,” he said.
“The sooner these products are legalised in Australia, the more lives will be saved”.