25 Dec

NSW Greens MP Jeremy Buckingham Lights Up E-Cigarette in Parliament

A New South Wales Greens MP has lit up an e-cigarette in State Parliament to prove a point about legal loopholes around the vapour devices.

Greens health spokesman Jeremy Buckingham caused a stir when he leaned back in his seat and started blowing puffs of vapour from the device during Upper House Question Time.

Government Whip Peter Phelps jumped to his feet to alert the Upper House President to Mr Buckingham’s behaviour.

“Mr Jeremy Buckingham is clearly smoking a vape cigarette in this house, more importantly, he’s done it with clear pre-meditation,” Dr Phelps said.

“It is an outrageous act against the decorum of this house.”

Mr Buckingham replied: “I’m not smoking.”

The President of the Upper House, Don Harwin, reprimanded Mr Buckingham for using props, but he was allowed to remain in the chamber.

Other MPs called out that it was a “stunt” and called Mr Buckingham a “media tart”.

The Government has introduced a bill to Parliament to ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors, but the Greens and Labor say it does not go far enough.

Mr Buckingham said e-cigarettes should be dealt with under all the same laws covering tobacco and nicotine, including banning their use in non-smoking areas under the Smoke-Free Environment Act.

He said his actions in the house highlighted the double standard applied to e-cigarettes.

“I was trying to make a very important point today that under NSW law and the modest reforms of the Government, it is still legal in this state to vape in a preschool, on a bus, in a public space and even in the Parliament,” he said.

“I was making the point that this is a really serious health issue and the current reforms don’t go far enough in protecting the community.”

18 Dec

E-Cigarettes More Effective Than Patches to Help Quit Smoking

E-cigarettes are more effective than nicotine patches and gum in helping people to quit smoking, according to a study that challenges the negative views of some public health experts.

The issue of e-cigarettes has become a public health battleground, alarming those who think that their marketing and use in public places where smoking is banned risks re-normalising tobacco.

Supporters say the vast majority of smokers are using e-cigarettes to kick their tobacco habit and that the health consequences of nicotine use without the tar from cigarettes appear, as yet, to be far less of a problem.

The study, by a team from University College London, looked at attempts of nearly 6,000 people to stop smoking and found that, while engaging with the NHS smoking cessation services was the most effective way to quit, using e-cigarettes beat nicotine replacement therapy, as well as the efforts of people to stop with no help at all.

Professor Robert West of the department of epidemiology and public health, the senior author of the study, said that it was extremely important to find out how well e-cigarettes worked as a quitting tool. “It really could affect literally millions of lives. We need to know,” he said.

He admitted, however, that it was a controversial area. He also acknowledged opponents’ fears and suspicions about the commercial involvement of scientists. “I don’t and will not take any money from any e-cigarette manufacturer,” he said. His department does take money from pharmaceutical companies that make smoking cessation drugs, but they are rethinking that. “I need to be able to talk about e-cigarettes without even the conception of conflict of interest,” he said.

The study, published in the journal Addictions, was based on surveys of people who had stopped smoking in a 12-month period between July 2009 and February 2014. In recent years, an increasing proportion report using e-cigarettes rather than over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy such as patches or gum. Many try to quit without support. Those who cut out cigarettes completely do better than those who try to reduce the numbers they smoke. A very small proportion get help from the NHS smoking cessation services.

When the results were adjusted to account for the differences between the smokers in terms of background, age and other variables, those using e-cigarettes were around 60% more likely to quit than those using nicotine replacement therapy or just willpower.

“It is one piece of the jigsaw and not a final answer,” said West. “It may be different in different countries. If it [use of e-cigarettes for quitting] continues to grow, we will expect a public health benefit.”

He said there were misconceptions about e-cigarettes. “Despite what a lot of people think, e-cigarettes are not good news for the tobacco industry and the tobacco industry would like them to go away. They sell tobacco and would like to go on doing that,” he said.

The European Commission has decided that e-cigarettes should be regulated as consumer products below a certain nicotine strength, but that the higher strength versions, which campaigners say those trying to stop smoking need, should be regulated as medicines. In this country that would be the responsibility of the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Authority (MHRA). Two MHRA licences have so far been applied for, both by tobacco companies. West says that is because only the tobacco industry has the money and the time necessary to go through the licensing process, unlike the small and medium-sized e-cigarette manufacturers, which is a problem.

If e-cigarette use as a smoking cessation tool were to be supported in any way by the NHS, it would have to be via MHRA-licensed products to ensure quality, he said.

“I think it would be perfectly reasonable for people to consider e-cigarettes for use with their patients,” he said. “The NHS would only get involved where the products had that mark of approval. I don’t think the NHS could engage with e-cigarettes outside that process.”

Pharmaceutical companies such as GSK and Pfizer, which make smoking cessation drugs, are among the opponents of e-cigarettes. “They are losing sales hand over fist to e-cigarettes and are incentivised to make it appear they are not effective,” said West.

A section of the public health community is also hostile. “It is related to a broad distaste for large corporations making large amounts of money out of psychoactive drugs,” he said. “You might see some of it as a puritanical ethic, which is a strong driver.”

17 Dec

E-Cigarettes Case Goes up in Smoke Following Landmark Ruling in WA Court

NSW tobacco laws could be amended to specifically outlaw electronic cigarettes after a landmark legal test case in WA led to the criminal prosecution of an online stockist.

”E-cigarettes”, or vapourisers, are battery-powered devices that simulate the effects of smoking by heating a nicotine liquid into vapour, which the user then inhales and exhales.

It has always been illegal to sell e-cigarette liquids that contain nicotine under Australian law but in a big development last week, the Supreme Court of Western Australia effectively banned e-cigarettes outright in the state, prosecuting a company, called HeavenlyVapours, which had been selling the dispensers and nicotine-free ”e-juice” through a website.

The ruling means that anyone over 18 in WA can legally smoke a cigarette containing multiple chemicals and carcinogens, but cannot buy the electronic version which many claim has assisted thousands of smokers to quit worldwide.

Last week, the owner of HeavenlyVapours, Vince van Heerden, said of the ”case law precedent” in an online forum: ”One can only imagine that the other states may now try to follow suit.”

Asked about the case, the NSW Ministry of Health confirmed it was ”continuing to monitor” the case and was waiting to see ”whether the decision may be appealed.”

In the meantime, it confirmed more than a dozen Sydney retailers were facing legal action after being caught selling illegal nicotine-laced e-liquids, late last year.

”Prosecutions are being considered for breaches of the Poisons and Therapeutic Goods Regulation 2008 and evidence has been collected,” a Health Department spokesman confirmed.

Vapourisers range from imitation cigarettes that cost as little as $20, to the Romanian built Wizard Evolved DA20 which sells for $1000.

In 2011, HeavenlyVapours’ premises were raided by the Western Australian Health Department over alleged breaches to section 106a of the Tobacco Products Control Act which prohibits the sale of anything such as food or a toy that mirrors a tobacco product. But in September last year, HeavenlyVapours was acquitted by a magistrate’s court which ruled there was insufficient evidence that the e-cigarettes in question looked anything like traditional cigarettes or cigars, pointing out the devices could just as easily resemble a ”fountain pen”.

But several weeks after the case was dismissed, the WA Health Department lodged an appeal which proved successful last week with the judge determining that any e-cigarette product that involves ”a hand to mouth action” and results in the ”expulsion of vapour” does in fact resemble a tobacco product.

Mr Van Heerden said his legal costs to date were almost $45,000 ”for something no one has ever been charged or prosecuted for before”.

But he has vowed to fight on. ”Common sense and dozens of studies demonstrate that e-juice consumed through e-juice/personal vapourisers do not contain the many thousands of deadly chemicals traditional tobacco cigarettes do,” he said online. ”We deserve the right to choose an alternative.”

15 Dec

Philip Morris Buys E-Cigarette Maker Nicocigs

Philip Morris has snapped up one of Britain’s fastest-growing electronic cigarette-makers, Nicocigs, as it warned profits from its traditional business will be lower than expected.

Nicocigs, was founded in 2008 and is based in Birmingham, is best known for its Nicolites brand.

Philip Morris, the owner of Marlboro, said the acquisition will give it “immediate access to, and a significant presence in, the growing e-vapour category in the UK market, as well as a strong retail presence”.

Nicocigs has about 27 per cent of the UK’s e-cigarette market, which has an estimated total retail value of $350 million (£206 million). The start-up employs 40 sales staff and distributes to 20,000 stores in Britain.

The purchase price for Nicocigs was undisclosed. The company reveals few financial details but it had amassed shareholder funds of £7.7 million by August 2013, according to Companies House. Nishil Nathwani, 27, is the leading shareholder.

The deal comes as Philip Morris, the world’s biggest tobacco firm, cut its profits forecast by about 4 per cent to between $4.87 and $4.97 per share on poor sales and price-cutting in Australia.

The stock fell nearly 2 per cent in trading on the German stock market. Chief executive André Calantzopoulos warned that the firm faces “significant currency headwinds … and known challenges in Asia”.

Calantzopoulos said the advent of e-cigarettes and other “reduced-risk” products means the tobacco industry is at “the early stage of a transformational process”.

Philip Morris reckons it could make $700 million of profit from “reduced-risk” products if it can reach a target of selling 30 billion units. But it also said it will run up $495 million in redundancy costs in September as it stops production in the Netherlands.

14 Dec

It Looks Like Smoke, But Where is the Fire Over Electronic Cigarettes?

In Western Australia it is legal to sell cigarettes filled with tar and other nasties that contribute to millions of deaths each year, yet electronic cigarettes – even those designed to be used with substances made of oils and organic compounds – are now outlawed.

Isn’t this effectively sending the message that it is OK to smoke but not to pretend to smoke?

The Health Department pursued a case against a man who set up a website to sell e-cigarettes online to make some extra cash – a case that earlier this year saw the man convicted and fined for breaching the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 (WA).

E-cigarettes cannot legally be marketed to be used in aiding quitting smoking.

It also sent a message that selling e-cigarettes is illegal in WA.

Vincent van Heerend’s conviction surrounded a section of the Act that outlaws selling products designed to resemble cigarettes.

I understand the point of the section of law, I don’t want to see my nieces sucking on toy cigarettes, imitating adult smokers but where is the common sense?

I’d have a different opinion on e-cigarettes plastered with images of tween heartthrobs One Direction on them, or musical e-ciggies that lit up and played Katy Perry’s Firework – but a product that has the possibility to help people quit an unhealthy habit and one that does not appear to be worse than the one it is imitating; at least consider regulating than banning it.

The judge in the test case specifically referred to the vapour from the e-cigarettes resembling smoke from a cigarette.

If this is the issue, I really hope the government pursues some sort of legal case or implements some sort of regulation in regard to another big offender in that same stream.

A couple of mornings earlier in the week, when the temperature got down to about 2 degrees, I walked from the car park to the office exhaling what looked like smoke – at the rate of a chain smoker, mind you – no one should have to deal with that.

My frost-breath is not likely to get me in any trouble any time soon; neither is using e-cigarettes in your own home, as their use is not illegal.

Comprehensive studies into the impact of e-cigarettes on human health have not been done.

While the jury is still out on what health effects e-cigarettes without nicotine in could have, one would assume that vegetable glycerin and propylene glycol could be a slightly healthier option than tobacco and tar.

E-cigarettes cannot legally be marketed to be used in aiding quitting smoking as they have not been assessed by the Therapeutic Goods Authority but anecdotal evidence suggests there could be something there.

I’ve come across a number of people who swear by these things as a way to reduce their nicotine intake or get off smoking completely.

I’ve been told that smokers still physically go through a similar routine that they do when they have a real cigarette, even though they might be taking in less or no nicotine.

The increasing prevalence of e-cigarettes in the community could also make smoking bans a complex issue.

A smoking ban in Perth’s Hay and Murray street malls came in to effect last year and the City of Perth confirmed local law prohibits smoking of any tobacco product in these areas.

A spokeswoman said “e-cigarettes are not a tobacco product and therefore the law does not prohibit their use” but the thing is, some of them are used to smoke tobacco.

However according to the Health Department, the use of e-cigarettes, whether they have nicotine in or not, must comply with laws on smoking in public places.

And even if the city was to allow the use of e-cigarettes without nicotine to be used within the malls, how are those who hand out fines meant to determine whether an e-cigarette has nicotine in it or not? I don’t think breathing in some of the smoke from them would be the healthiest of options.

Oddly enough, when chatting to tobacco store staff I was told that patients from Royal Perth Hospital were actually encouraged to buy e-cigarettes.

A shop worker at a different outlet backed this up, saying some customers had been to RPH or were still patients there and had been advised by staff to get an e-cigarette.

The hospital patients said they used them to aid in quitting their smoking habit altogether, or to use the nicotine-free version so they can use it on the hospital grounds where smoking is banned.

A spokeswoman for RPH said while they could not verify “third party statements or advice provided to patients or visitors, e-cigarettes and other personal vaporisers for delivery of nicotine or other substances are not permitted” at the hospital.

However, if e-cigarettes are useful in helping people quit smoking and if smokers spend their cash on e-cigarettes and not so much on the traditional product, how would the federal government cope without its own addiction to the revenue that Big Tobacco generates?