Cancer Council Queensland commended the Queensland Government for new laws that will see e-cigarettes subject to the same restrictions and laws as cigarettes.
The amendments to the Tobacco Act will be effective from 1 January 2015 and apply to all electronic cigarettes.
Spokesperson for Cancer Council Queensland Katie Clift said there is a lack of scientific evidence to support e-cigarette safety.
“E-cigarettes, those containing nicotine, and those containing substances other than nicotine have not been tested for quality, safety or performance by the Therapeutic Goods Administration,” she said.
“All e-cigarettes are a significant threat to public health, they are currently illegal in Australia and have not been deemed safe for use by medical experts and health authorities.”
Curtin University Professor of Health Policy Mike Daube said the ingredients in e-cigarettes are still unknown and proper research is needed to determine possible risks.
“The main problem is we just don’t know about e-cigarettes. They’re new and there are lots of different products with different flavours,” he said.
“I’m not saying they should never be allowed on the market. What I’m saying is before they are allowed, let’s do the research to find out what the possible harm could be and make a decision based on the evidence. At the moment there’s not much evidence.”
Since 2005, the e-cigarette industry has grown from one manufacturer in China, to an estimated US$3 billion global business with 466 brands marketed with almost 8000 different flavours.
The report said ‘there is concern e-cigarettes will serve as a gateway to nicotine addiction and ultimately smoking, particularly for young people. The result showed an increase of e-cigarette use in the adolescent group doubling from 2008 to 2012.’
E-cigarettes are frequently marketed by manufacturers as a less harmful alternative to tobacco smoking and advertised as a option to help smokers quit.
According to the World Health Organisation there is currently insufficient evidence to conclude that e-cigarettes help smokers to quit.
However there are concerns that e-cigarettes could keep smokers addicted to tobacco by providing a nicotine hit in smoke-free places.
Professor Daube repeated concerns raised by the World Health Organisation report and said the use of e-cigarettes is inconclusive as to whether it helps smokers quit.
“If that is being claimed in Australia, then it contravenes the Australian legislation,” he said.
“If you want to put product on the market as a Therapeutic safe net it has to be approved by the TGA. They have not approved e-cigarettes and the evidence at the moment is fairly unclear.”
Professor Daube said smokers should be encouraged to quit smoking by using a combination of approved treatments.
“We do know that people in Australia are quitting smoking with only 12.8% of adults are smokers and 95% of young teenagers never even tried cigarettes,” he said.
“Most smokers have quit successfully by quitting cold [turkey].”
Professor Daube said there are various things that can help smokers to quit.
“It is important to keep doing what we know works. Strategies like tax increases, public education, media campaigns and protection of non-smokers are ways to inform and address,” he said.