As outlined in Chapter 1, the Committee received a large number of submissions from individuals detailing their personal experiences of using electronic cigarettes (E‑cigarettes), both with and without nicotine.
In general, most submissions outlined the perceived positive health impact individuals experienced when they switched from smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes to vaping. Many individuals provided similar accounts of how they had attempted to quit tobacco smoking using available methods (such as nicotine replacement therapies (NRTs) or medication) and then they turned to E‑cigarettes.
Another common theme in evidence to the Committee was a sense of frustration at Australia’s regulatory framework for E‑cigarettes, particularly regarding access to nicotine. A number of individuals highlighted the regulatory frameworks of countries where nicotine E‑cigarettes are available and suggested Australia should adopt a similar approach.
Methods for Quitting Smoking
Many individuals who provided evidence to the Committee relayed that they had been smoking since an early age, sometimes for decades. Some individuals described a feeling of hopelessness regarding the prospect of quitting smoking. Comments included:
‘As a former committed smoker for over 15 years on and off, I knew I would continue to smoke until it took my life away.’
‘I started smoking cigarettes back in 1975 and continued to do so for the next 35 years. I was a very heavy smoker … and ultimately ended up smoking in excess of 40 per day, unfiltered rollies … I believed that I would die as a smoker and had virtually given up all hope of quitting cigarettes.’
‘I am a 57 year old male living in Victoria who smoked tobacco for 37 years. I resigned myself to the fact that I would smoke for the rest of my life.’
A number of individuals outlined how they had attempted to quit smoking cigarettes using NRTs, such as nicotine gum, patches or inhalers. Other common quit attempt methods mentioned included using medication or going ‘cold turkey.’
Use of E-cigarettes
A number of inquiry participants explained how they began using E‑cigarettes. Mr Adam Bentley stated that ‘a friend suggested trying E‑cigarettes as a method to quit smoking.’ Mr Richard Yeadon stated that he ‘found information on the internet about vaping’, and ‘after several weeks of investigating and researching vaping, [he] ordered a vaporiser kit and nicotine E‑juice from overseas.’ Mr Patrick Slack first tried an E‑cigarette ‘while on an overseas trip’.
A large number of individuals described how they had been able to successfully quit tobacco smoking by switching to vaping E‑cigarettes. Examples of this included:
‘With the help of E-cigarettes I have managed to stay off smoking with ease.’
‘Giving up with an electronic cigarette was so easy. A lot easier than any other method that I have tried. My need for hand to mouth action was satisfied, my need for inhalation was satisfied, and with the small amount of nicotine in my E-cigarette juice, my want for nicotine was also satisfied.’
‘I have been vaping for over twelve months and not touched a cigarette in this time.’
A number of individuals described how they began vaping using high concentrations of nicotine, and then reduced the concentration over time. Mr Tarrant stated that he had reduced his nicotine levels from 12 milligrams (mg) to zero and was now ‘completely free’ from his addiction. Mr Brendan Cilla described his personal experience and stated that ‘I started using nicotine E-liquid at 24 mg strength and over approximately a 12 month period I have reduced my nicotine intake to just 5 mg strength.’
Dual use of E-cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes was also raised. A number of individuals explained that they had used both E‑cigarettes and tobacco cigarettes at first and had managed to cut down their tobacco cigarette use, while others had managed to quit smoking completely. One inquiry participant described their experience and stated:
‘For a month I used a combination of cigarette smoking and vaping and finally on the 11th November 2016, I woke up one morning, and made the decision to not go and buy another packet of cigarettes. Since then, I have been able to maintain that decision.’
Switching from Smoking to Vaping
A number of individuals described how, once they had switched from smoking to vaping, they experienced improvements in their health. Experienced health benefits ranged from finding it easier to breathe, being able to exercise more and for longer, less coughing, more energy, improved taste and smell, lower blood pressure, and less frequent colds and chest infections.
A number of individuals described the benefits that switching from smoking to vaping had on their social life, work, and family. Mr Phil Perry described how he switched from smoking to vaping and is ‘once again able to play football with [his] children.’ Miss Michelle Sawyers similarly stated that switching from tobacco cigarettes to E‑cigarettes has enabled her to set a ‘positive example’ for her sons. Another individual explained that they ‘no longer have to worry about the stench of cigarettes’ on them in the workplace. Mr Robert Cox outlined the benefits that flowed to his family after he switched to vaping, including no second hand smoke, smell, or need for ashtrays.
A number of individuals described a monetary benefit from switching from smoking to vaping, finding that vaping was more affordable than smoking cigarettes. One individual stated that they had been ‘spending around $600 per month on cigarettes’ and that when they switched to vaping their expenditure on E‑cigarettes was ‘below $50 per month.’
Box 4.1: Individual Experiences
Many individuals described how their health and lifestyle had improved after switching from smoking tobacco cigarettes to vaping. Personal comments include:
‘I feel amazing! My taste is back. I don’t snore anymore. I wake up feeling refreshed after I sleep. I don’t smell. I used to cough up the most awful stuff in the mornings, that’s stopped. My mouth ulcers, which I’d suffered for years with, have disappeared. I have more energy. I don’t feel like I’m trying to catch my breath all the time. I don’t get breathless when I walk or climb stairs.’
‘I am able to run around with my incredibly active and sports talented son, I am able to get back into the ocean and enjoy surfing again. I can ride my bicycle for 20+kms without hesitation.’
‘I was overweight and depressed at the time [of switching] and thanks to giving up smoking and switching to vaping eventually I could breathe better enough to start going to the gym. I started looking after my health better and now 15 months on I have lost 35kgs and feel better both physically and mentally.’
‘I no longer cough up phlegm or feel short of breath after physical exercise, no chest infections with a common flu that I always would get and my smell and taste now is amazing. I free dive also and find my lung capacity has improved greatly.’
‘I no longer have disgusting breath and a constant stench on my skin and clothes. I no longer get chest infections and haven't had antibiotics every other week like I used to. I am fit and healthy now due to the simple fact that I can run a mile and not feel like my lungs are collapsing. My skin is clear and radiant.’
‘Since switching … I no longer have coughing fits, trouble breathing, my blood pressure has decreased dramatically and I no longer have sleepless nights worrying about not living to see my daughters grow up.’
‘I can now do all of the things that I had to give up [when smoking cigarettes]. I can breathe better, I smell better, I feel better, life is simply better now, not to mention how much money I have saved since giving up. The colour of the walls in my house have also halted their growing shade of yellow.’
‘Not only has my blood pressure and heart function improved dramatically, but my much better ability to do sustained exercise is bringing other health benefits as well as weight control and better all-round fitness … Additional benefits I am experiencing include the ability to taste and smell much better, better dental health, lower cholesterol, and better general fitness.’
Access to E-cigarettes and E-liquids
A number of individuals commented that they ordered nicotine online from overseas suppliers, despite knowing it is unlawful to do so. Some individuals who did not wish to be named expressed frustration at being seen as a ‘criminal’ for using nicotine E‑cigarettes to help them quit tobacco smoking. Ms Angela Gordon described this as being ‘forced … to choose between the law and our own life.’
Others described the issues involved in purchasing an overseas E‑liquid product online without having expert product advice. Mr Teskey described his experience and stated:
‘The first problem I had was to find a liquid that suited me. Because I couldn’t go into a shop and try liquids with nicotine I had to order from overseas and I wasted a few hundred dollars on flavours I didn’t like. This was a major hurdle because I came very close to just giving up on quitting but luckily my persistence paid off and I found some flavours I liked and since that day … I have not had a single cigarette.’
Another individual similarly stated that ‘it can take several weeks of trial and error through ordering products from different online websites’ before finding a device and E‑liquid that suits. This ‘long and tiresome’ process can see some people ‘admit defeat and return to cigarettes.’
As nicotine for E‑cigarettes is not readily available, some vapers import nicotine and mix it into the E‑liquid themselves. Miss Nicole Daws stated that this process can be ‘harmful’ if is not mixed correctly, and ‘if people had access to liquids already containing nicotine we would not need to do this.’ Mr Damian Dwyer agreed and stated that ‘dealing with concentrated nicotine can be dangerous.’
The fact that tobacco cigarettes can be purchased easily throughout Australia, while sourcing E‑cigarettes is difficult and in some cases unlawful, was a source of frustration for many inquiry participants. Mr Van Horick stated:
‘You can legally buy cigarettes without prescription which contain nicotine and numerous cancer causing chemicals, yet in Australia you cannot buy liquid used in electronic cigarettes that contains nicotine. So, on the one hand you have a government which allows the sale of cigarettes which contains all these chemicals but won’t allow people who want to quit smoking cigarettes to have nicotine in their E-liquid.’
A number of inquiry participants highlighted the regulatory approaches of the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand, to suggest that Australia’s regulation of E‑cigarettes is not in line with international best practice. International research findings estimating that E‑cigarettes were 95 per cent safer than tobacco cigarettes were also frequently raised.
A number of individuals considered that New Zealand’s proposed legislation for E‑cigarettes could be a suitable regulatory model for Australia. Mr Richard Yeadon stated that he is:
‘… encouraged by the fact that the New Zealand government has decided to introduce level-headed legislation that will prohibit the sale of devices and E‑juice to under 18 year olds, but allows the free sale of devices and E-juice, including nicotine, at the retail level.’
Overwhelmingly, individual participants called for the legalisation of nicotine E‑cigarettes, to enable smokers to switch:
‘E-cigarettes and E-nicotine should be legal as they are less harmful by far than actual cigarettes and smoking tobacco.’
‘New Zealand has legalised the sale of nicotine for E-cigarettes and has made them marketable for the public and I feel Australia needs to follow in their footsteps and do the same thing.’
‘I hope the inquiry into the use and availability of E-cigarette products and juice (with nicotine) will look at the positives for allowing purchase of a safer alternative to smoking in Australia.’
A number of individuals further stated that they would prefer to be able to buy nicotine E‑liquid in Australia, instead of purchasing it online from overseas retailers. One participant explained that they would:
… like to see legislation that allows Australians to buy all their E‑cigarette supplies here in Australia, and to have access to local retailers and shop fronts where staff can educate and inform consumers on how best to safely move to using E‑cigarettes and give up smoking for good.
A number of individuals called for regulation which enabled the use of E‑cigarettes by smokers, while minimising any potential risks to the rest of the public. Ms Margaretha Joyce considered that:
Sensible regulation should make vaping readily available as a less harmful alternative to smoking for adult smokers while minimising any risk to other members of the community, such as by banning sales to children and mandating childproof nicotine containers.
Regulations suggested included limits on sales to minors, safety standards and labelling requirements. A number of inquiry participants recommended nicotine be available at a range of concentration levels to encourage heavy smokers to switch and then reduce their nicotine intake over time. The importance of having a wide availability of flavours was also raised.
In addition, the taxation of E‑cigarettes was raised by a number of individuals. Mr Cameron Salway recommended E‑cigarettes be taxed at a lower rate to cigarettes, to encourage smokers to switch. Other inquiry participants stated that the revenue the government receives from high taxes on cigarettes may be contributing to its reluctance to make E‑cigarettes widely available.
The Committee is grateful to the individuals who relayed their experiences using electronic cigarettes (E‑cigarettes). A number of these individuals explained how they had been unable to quit smoking cigarettes using available methods, such as nicotine patches, gums and inhalers, or medication.
Many individuals then described how they were able to successfully quit smoking traditional tobacco cigarettes once they had switched to vaping E‑cigarettes. These individuals also highlighted positive health impacts they believe they experienced after switching from smoking traditional cigarettes to vaping.
A number of individuals also put forward regulatory options for E‑cigarettes. In particular, many of these individuals considered that liquid nicotine should be made available for use in E‑cigarettes. Additional regulatory suggestions included taxing E‑cigarettes at a lower rate to traditional tobacco cigarettes, age restrictions for the sale of E‑cigarettes and safety and packaging requirements. Overseas jurisdictions including the United Kingdom of Great Britain, the United States of America, Canada and New Zealand were also highlighted as potential regulatory models for Australia.
These experiences, observations and recommendations provided the Committee with a valuable insight into how E‑cigarettes are impacting the lives of Australians.