Electronic Cigarettes in Australia and the Therapeutic Goods Administration
The future of electronic cigarettes in Australia remains in something of a state of flux.
While you can buy an ecig, at least in Western Australia right now, it is illegal to sell them. It is against the law to sell anything that resembles a tobacco product in South Australia and at the start of 2015 the use of electronic cigarettes in Queensland will be subjected to the same laws as tobacco products. The ACT is looking at similar restrictions.
Most of the controversy surrounding electronic cigarettes in Australia centres on their ability to deliver nicotine to the user. Nicotine in the form used by vapers has yet to be approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA), which means those selling electronic cigarettes cannot claim that they will help someone quit smoking. And up until recently there had not been any real push for that to change.
However it seems big tobacco companies, knowing that electronic cigarettes have the potential to be a huge money spinner for them, have started lobbying the TGA to approve their devices for nicotine replacement. They are arguing ecigarettes should be sold as a “medicine” to help tobacco smokers quit the habit.
There have been some other companies that have also lodged applications, with at least one, for a very brief moment, being approved.
Documents obtained under Freedom of Information by the ABC have revealed what they described as an “embarrassing slip-up” when the TGA allowed three electronic cigarette products to be listed as medical devices. Under an application put forward by Sydney-based company EVA Natural, approval was given to their Evo Electronic Vaporiser Kit and Vaporiser Kit cartridges.
According to the documents, two of three applications were received, approved and reviewed on the same day, while a third got the go ahead after just one day.
Electronic Cigarettes in Australia review underway
The TGA confirmed it was the first electronic cigarette device to be included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (albeit briefly).
However it is unclear at this stage why the process never went ahead. The ABC reported that the TGA started a review of the product and it was then removed at the request of the applicant. A spokesperson from the TGA told the ABC the application had been “self-listed inappropriately”.
There has been no further word from the TGA or even EVA Natural about what is likely to happen now.
The Federal Government is currently conducting an independent review of the TGA’s regulation processes to remove ineffective regulation and encourage greater competition.
The National Health and Medical Research Council is also funding a clinical trial of ecigarettes for giving up smoking through the University of Queensland.
However the World Health Organisation continues to call for strict regulations around electronic cigarettes after they concluded there was still not enough scientific evidence to support the belief that they helped people stop smoking.
Other groups such as the Cancer Council of Australia continue to argue that allowing tobacco companies to market ecigarettes would in fact encourage more people to take up smoking.
In the meantime, those that have made the transition from smoking to vaping, will have to continue to contend with buying their nicotine from overseas and keep their fingers crossed that the TGA eventually agrees that the use of electronic cigarettes is a viable and often-times effective way to no longer smoking tobacco.