Electronic Cigarettes or E-cigs, are a relatively recent trend in the use of the drug Nicotine. Nicotine has traditinally been ingested by inhaling the burnt smoke of the Tobacco plant, usually in the form of a cigarette. Electronic cigarettes were first invented or patented in the late 1960's, but were never put into production. The first modern electonic cigarettes appeared on the market in the first years of this century. E-cig popularity has incresed significantly in the last five years and now hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people use them.
The E-cig Dilemma in Australia is a combination of two factors. The first is the high mortality and illness rates assicated with smoking tobacco - 20,000 people die in Australia each year from smoking. As a point of comparison all other drugs combined kill around half as many people per annum (8,000 of these 9,000 deaths are caused by Alcohol). The second factor to consider is the legal status concerning the sale of nicotine.
In Australia it is illegal to re-sell nicotine - meaning it is illegal to sell electronic cigarettes containing nicotine at shops. Tobacco is the only legal option at the local shopping centre. This in turn means that smokers in Australia are somewhat "forced" to continue smoking the remakably dangerous tobacco plant. However there is no law against importing nicotine for personal use - But the fact remains that cigarettes are easily availabile while E-cigs are harder to aquire. This implies that people will keep using tobacco - and continue to die.
E-cigs are a recent phenomenon, so there is a scarcity of strong scientific peer reviewed research on the harms and benefits asociated with their use. However the basic E-cig contains Nicotine, Propolyne Glycol (or similiar) and/or flavouring/colourings. This is a very different creature, on the face of it, than the tobacco cigarrette - but the drug is the same. If I were a betting man, I would bet that E-cigs are less harmul than Tobacco. However all smokers, indeed all Australian's, are victims of the illegality of the resale of nicotine. If every smoker swtiched to E-cigs i doubt 20,000 people would die per annum as a result.
Thanks, Brady :)