A research paper published in the Internal Medicine Journal of the Royal Australian College of Physicians last month calls for Australian doctors to recommend e-cigarettes to patients who are unable to quit smoking. The paper, which was written by associate professor Dr Colin Mendelsohn of the University of NSW, is partially based on a study that found smokers who switched to electronic cigarettes in Australia enjoyed a number of important health benefits. Lower blood pressure, improvements in conditions such as asthma and COPD, increased lung function and improved cardiovascular health were among the benefits observed in the test group. According to USA and UK studies, the newer models of e-cigarettes on the market are also making it easier for smokers to quit nicotine altogether.
The Australian Medical Association is, however, yet to come out and recommend electronic vaping devices in Australia, only going as far as to say that smokers should quit. The AMA has stated that further research on the health risks associated with e-cigarettes needs to be conducted, this despite the fact government agencies in countries such as the UK have taken a more positive stance concerning vaping, following studies that show it is more than 95% safer than smoking tobacco products.
Dr Colin Mendelsohn believes the AMA’s approach is a classic example of the type of “group think” that delayed the introduction of compulsory seat belt laws and other important legislation in Australia in the past. He also went on the record as saying that the medical association’s “stop smoking or die” policy was unhelpful to the millions of Australian people who still smoke, two third of who can expect to die prematurely as a result of their habit. Whether the Australian government will eventually follow the lead of more progressive-thinking health agencies in other Western countries remains to be seen.