A cigarette that could actually save lives

Bookmark and Share Deregulation Unit | Simon Breheny
The Daily Telegraph 11th March, 2015

Electronic cigarettes may be the greatest tool in the fight against lung cancer that the world has ever seen. They're cheap, convenient and they're helping smokers everywhere to quit.

And the best part about this health solution? It doesn't involve government.

Demands for governments to identify and solve problems are a recipe for disaster. They lead to higher taxes and less freedom. A cure administered by the nanny state is worse than the disease.

Meanwhile, free markets are coming up with innovative ways to tackle some of our most deep-seated problems.

Take lung cancer. According to Cancer Australia, lung cancer was responsible for 8,114 deaths in Australia in 2011. Smoking increases the risk of cancer. The government response is regulation, taxes, advertising and sponsorship restrictions and bans.

A better response involves opening up markets and allowing individuals to make choices about their own lives.

There are a range of cigarette substitutes already on the market. Electronic cigarettes are the most prominent, and they're currently taking the world by storm.

E-cigarettes are battery-powered nicotine vaporisers. They do not contain tobacco or produce smoke. E-cigarette users inhale vapour, which produces a similar effect to smoking without the health risks caused by the carcinogenic and toxins of combustible tobacco products.

The global e-cigarette market is worth around $2 billion. This is predicted to grow to $10 billion by 2020. Part of the success of this new product is that it is used as a device to help traditional cigarette smokers to quit tobacco.

An article published in August 2014 in the peer-reviewed Journal of Public Health concluded that "the use of [e-cigarettes] can reduce the number of cigarettes smoked and withdrawal symptoms ..."

In an article for BMC Medicine last year, Peter Hajek of the Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine said: "although there is no doubt that smokers switching to electronic cigarettes substantially reduce the risk to their health, some tobacco control activists and health organisations discourage smokers from using [e-cigarettes] and lobby policy makers to reduce [e-cigarette] use by draconian regulation."

E-cigarettes and reduced risk products should be seen for what they are - the latest in cutting-edge tobacco quitting devices.

It's against the law to sell these products by claiming they have a therapeutic benefit. But the science is clear - e-cigarettes save lives.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration should recognise the medical benefits of these products and immediately approve their use for thousands of Australians trying to quit smoking.

Governments should be making room for life-saving innovations. Markets for new products that allow individuals to make better choices must be allowed to flourish.

Where governments have failed the free market will succeed.