• Michael Mosley lights up (SBS)Source: SBS
The regulation of e-cigarettes in Australia is a hot-button topic for passionate advocates, but should we really be legalising it before we have all the data?
Shane Cubis

9 Jul 2018 - 1:25 PM  UPDATED 9 Jul 2018 - 1:29 PM

Vaping. Depending where you stand, it’s a great way to absorb nicotine without smoking’s harmful side-effects, a rich source of Twitter-comedy punchlines, and, if you’re walking behind one of these e-cig-toting footpath-treaders, a great way to get a lungful of second-hand raspberry steam.

Of course, when this happens to you during an innocent stroll through Melbourne’s CBD, you can immediately summon a police officer to arrest the offensive fruit-blower. Because vaping is still illegal down under, and he’s going to goddamn prison for the term of his natural life.

Ha – that was a trick to lure in the “Well, actually…” crowd. Because it’s a bit more complicated than that.

There are different regulations depending on which state you’re in, whether your electronic cigarette has nicotine in it or not, and other arcane factors. (There’s a suspiciously detailed infographic on the legalities here - it’s on a site that also has a section called “BEST VAPES”, so bear that in mind when you tender it as evidence in court).

Vaping supporters have been incredibly vocal about the benefits of vaping. Their key argument in favour of simplifying the laws, closing legal loopholes, and putting e-cigarettes on the same footing as other vices is that vaping helps people quit smoking. (There’s also the argument in favour of libertarian adult decision-making, too, for the “Well, actually…” readers still here – basically, if grown-ups wanna vape like the rest of the urbane world, who is the government to stand in their way?)

But in Australia, only products that have been approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration can be marketed as quitting aids, and that hasn’t happened yet for vaping gear. In addition, while there’s a decent amount of anecdotal evidence that vaping helps people get off the durries, not to mention encouraging data coming from nations like the UK and USA, thus far there hasn’t been a lot of information on what happens to e-cigarette users in the long term.

The Feed recently explored the Australian regulation of e-cigs:


Enter Michael Mosley. The good doctor has never been averse to putting his own body on the line in search of empirical truth, and this time he’s taking the ultimate step – smoking his very first cigarette. Summoning the effortless cool of a Year 8 kid behind the shelter sheds, Michael demonstrates the effects of nicotine on the body before moving on to experiments with e-cigarettes and their utility in giving up more traditional methods of inhaling nicotine.

It’s a particularly interesting watch if you haven’t been following the debate with the intensity of a man who owns several fedoras, and will probably help you make a decision on whether these things should be given the same legal standing as traditional tobacco products. Overall, though, it’s difficult not to come away with the feeling that there’s no need to rush into legalisation. Maybe we can check in with Mosley five years down the track and see what the research looks like then.

And if we can sort out these sickly-sweet flavours while we’re at it.

The Michael Mosley-fronted E-Cigarettes: Miracle or Menace airs on SBS Monday night at 8:30pm and streaming at SBS On Demand: