It is reported that as more and more Australian children begin to smoke e-cigarettes, and even some 13-year-old children are addicted to nicotine, the federal government has taken action.
Since October 1, federal health secretary Greg Hunt has closed this loophole and banned Australians from importing nicotine electronic cigarette products (NVP) from overseas without a doctor's prescription.
But some experts worry that the new law will force users to enter the black market to buy products that can save their lives, thus exposing users to a higher risk of injury.
At present, it is illegal to buy or own nicotine electronic cigarette products (NVP) in every state and territory of Australia (except South Australia).
However, many users have been purchasing NVP from overseas suppliers or from the counters of Australian tobacconists.
Since October 1, the border defense forces have the right to detain NVP without a doctor's prescription and NVP containing dangerous pollutants, such as cinnamon or cream seasoning.
Public health officials hope that the import ban will limit the black market sales of NVP and help Australia avoid the adolescent e-cigarette epidemic like the United States.
According to the National Center for chronic disease prevention and health promotion, up to one fifth of high school students in the United States now smoke e-cigarettes.
"Electronic cigarette smoking among teenagers is definitely increasing," Dr. Sarah white, director of quit Victoria, told the media. "In the latest National Drug Strategy Household Survey, we saw that the number of children using e-cigarettes doubled."
Dr. White said she received a call from a troubled teacher's smoking cessation hotline because one of her students, a 13-year-old boy, was seriously addicted to nicotine.
Quitline advises people who want to quit smoking. But Dr. White said that for the first time in decades, people have called on children addicted to nicotine e-cigarettes.
"It's really scary when you start getting calls like this," Dr. White said.
Is there an epidemic of adolescent e-cigarettes?
Wayne hall, a professor at the University of Queensland, said Ban advocates often use double standards when it comes to statistics on Teenagers' e-cigarette smoking and smoking.
"In recent years, more experiments on e-cigarettes have been carried out among young people, but I think there is a trend to focus on using them forever," Professor Hall said. "I mean, these young people may have tried e-cigarettes once. They are regarded as e-cigarette users."
Some surveys found that about 5% of teenagers said they had used e-cigarettes in the past month.
However, the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey - cited in the government's own reasoning about the new law - found that only 1.8% of children aged 14-17 said they were currently using e-cigarettes, up from 0.9% in 2016.
This figure includes those who say they smoke e-cigarettes less than once a month, and does not mention whether e-cigarettes contain nicotine.
Nevertheless, experts and public health officials agree that we should pay attention to the problem of teenagers smoking e-cigarettes.
Dr. white is particularly worried that some e-cigarette companies seem to be selling NVP to young people.
"We know that taste and packaging seem very attractive to children," Dr. White said. "Some are like juice boxes, some are like cartoon characters - they taste like hababuba and cherry soda."
"And of course we see them selling to children and teenagers on social media platforms such as tiktok."
Despite vowing to delete posts promoting the use or sale of NVP, tiktok, snapchat and instagram are still full of pages selling nicotine e-cigarettes.
Many people worry that if children start smoking e-cigarettes, they may continue to smoke.
Is e-cigarette the gateway to smoking?
"Numerous studies have shown that if someone starts using e-cigarettes or e-cigarettes, they are three times more likely to continue smoking," Dr. White said.
However, Professor Hall said that the evidence that e-cigarettes were a way of smoking was quite weak because researchers could not reach a large number of participants.
More importantly, the study cannot correctly determine whether young people who smoke e-cigarettes are already inclined to smoke, Professor Hall said.
Fiona Patten, a Victorian MP and leader of the rational party, said that the new law was extremely short-sighted and unfounded.
"There is absolutely no evidence that e-cigarettes can lead to smoking," Ms. Barton said. "There is a lot of evidence that e-cigarettes can prevent you from smoking."
Can e-cigarettes help people quit smoking?
Professor hall found that NVP was about twice as effective in getting people to quit smoking as other nicotine replacement products (NRP), such as patches or gum.
"It's hard for us to get people to quit smoking. If a product is twice as good as other NRPS, we'll be angry if we don't use it," Professor Hall said.
Only 3% of Australians who tried to quit smoking actually succeeded. In the UK, e-cigarettes have been regarded as a tool to help people quit smoking. More than half of those who successfully quit smoking use e-cigarettes.
But many who disagree.
The World Health Organization, the Australian Medical Association, the Australian cancer Commission and the Australian Department of health all said that there was not enough evidence that NVP was an effective smoking cessation tool.
Until recently, the Royal College of general practitioners, the highest institution of general practitioners, did not encourage doctors to prescribe nicotine e-cigarettes.
Last year's changes to the RACGP guidelines recommended NVP as a second-line smoking cessation aid, which should be used only after patients have exhausted all other options.
Dr. white acknowledges that with appropriate guidance, smokers can successfully quit smoking by using e-cigarettes.
"If someone wants to try using nicotine e-cigarette products to quit smoking, the best thing they can do is consult their doctor and make sure they use it under medical supervision and smoking cessation hotline," she said.
But Ms. Barton, leader of the rational party, said it was unnecessary and inappropriate to force people to see a doctor to get a prescription for NVP.
"Doctors are reluctant to prescribe products that are not listed on PBS and not approved by TGA," Ms. Patten said. We don't ask doctors to prescribe tobacco, we don't even ask them to prescribe Nicorette, so why should we ask them to do so? "
Professor Hall says smoking cessation services, not doctors, can provide guidance to those who seek to quit using NVP.
"But in this country, smoking cessation services are hostile to e-cigarettes. They don't encourage smokers to use them," Professor Hall said.
Is electronic cigarette safe?
Those who oppose e-cigarettes often do so because they think e-cigarettes are unsafe.
However, e-cigarette advocates say policy makers and health officials should see NVP as a smoking cessation tool because they are much safer than cigarettes.
"It's not just a little safer," Professor Hall said. "I mean, it's much safer in terms of carcinogens and poisons."
But Dr. White said that comparing e-cigarettes with the deadliest consumer goods in history is not a warm recognition.
Dr. White said: in Australia, cigarettes are the main cause of preventable death, and smoking alone accounts for 8.6% of our disease burden. So this is an incredibly low threshold.
Professor Hall said that although non-smokers are not recommended to start smoking e-cigarettes, diluting the safety difference may make more people transition from e-cigarettes to smoking.
"Safer is not safer," Professor Hall said. "But I think this is an amazing result of misinformation. Most smokers believe that there is no difference in the risk between e-cigarettes and smoking. If people start smoking e-cigarettes, it will only encourage people to transition to smoking."
More importantly, by further restricting access to e-cigarettes, the federal government may actually expose users to more risks.
For example, in the United States, thousands of people were hospitalized and 68 died after using illegal cannabis e-cigarette products contaminated with toxic substances.
"This is a trade-off with the ban. You reduce the overall prevalence, but you make the use more risky," Professor Hall said.
"We may limit the use of e-cigarettes to more adventurous, adventurous and rebellious young people in the community, but we will increase their risk because they will use unregulated products that may contain pollutants."
There is a black market everywhere
With an estimated 500000 users and reports that illegal nicotine e-cigarettes have been sold over the counter in Australian stores, some people are worried that they have gone crazy.
But quit Victoria firmly believes that the new law will prevent young people from starting to smoke e-cigarettes.
Meanwhile, illegal e-cigarette suppliers told their customers that they would be open as usual after October 1.