The Australian Association of Smoking Cessation Professionals has released an Information Sheet on electronic cigarettes to help smokers and healthcare professionals make informed decisions about these products.eCigarttes_-_4_types.jpg

A  recent study showed one in five Australian smokers has tried e-cigarettes and 7% are currently using e-cigarettes. There are over 400 brands available now. However, unlike Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) products which have been evaluated for quality and performance and approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration, e-cigarettes are not regulated in Australia, leaving many unanswered questions about their effectiveness and safety.

E-cigarettes are battery operated devices that create a fine vapour which usually contains nicotine. The vapour is inhaled into the lungs and is exhaled as a visible mist. The process of ‘vaping’ simulates a smoking experience.

Many users – or ‘vapers’ – report that e-cigarettes have helped them to quit or reduce their smoking. However, the level of evidence is not yet sufficient to conclude that they are an effective smoking cessation aid, although there have been a small number of scientific trials that have shown some promise.

E-cigarettes are likely to be safer than smoking, however there are no long-term studies and further research on safety is needed. Nicotine is the key addictive component of tobacco, but otherwise it has relatively minor adverse health effects, except in pregnancy. Nicotine does not cause cancer, lung disease and has only relatively minor cardiovascular effects.

There are also concerns about potential harmful effects of widespread e-cigarette use on public health. For example, e-cigarettes may act as a gateway to smoking for children, and their public use could ‘renormalise’ smoking behaviour. They may also discourage quitting in smokers who may use them in non-smoking areas, reducing the pressure to quit. However, there is no evidence for these concerns so far.

E-cigarettes can be purchased legally without nicotine at retail outlets in Australia. Although the sale of nicotine is prohibited, studies in NSW and Tasmania have found that many products do actually contain nicotine. Given e-cigarettes are not yet regulated in Australia, there are also concerns about quality control and labelling of some products. Users also should be aware that in some states and territories, obtaining, purchasing, possession and/or using nicotine without a permit is an offence.

AASCP advises smokers to first use conventional forms of NRT including nicotine patch, lozenge, gum, lozenges, mouth spray, inhalator and oral strips or the prescription drugs varenicline and bupropion which have been evaluated by Australian authorities for quality, safety and performance.

However, for those who have failed to quit with approved therapies, e-cigarettes may offer an alternative. AASCP says that the final decision to use e-cigarettes belongs to the individual smoker, who should weigh up the risk and benefits and make a decision for their circumstances.

 

Click here to download the Information Sheet.

Click here to download the media release.

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