Medical journal warns eCigs could undo work of quit campaign

ELECTRONIC cigarettes risk reversing the progress made in reducing Australia's smoking rates a researcher has warned.

In research published today the Medical Journal of Australia University of Sydney Professor Simon Chapman said "vaping" could expose millions of new people to nicotine.

He wrote the tobacco industry knows "how essential new cohorts of young smokers are to its very survival as an industry".

"Today, [just] 12.8% of Australians aged 14 years and over smoke on a daily basis. The record low uptake of smoking by the young is most responsible for this," he said.

"The prospect of the industry reversing this inexorably ruinous exodus has been given a major boost with the arrival of e-cigarettes (ECs)."

But electronic cigarette manufacturers and advocated have claimed the products are healthier than traditional cigarettes as they have smaller amounts of nicotine and no smoke is inhaled.

But Professor Chapman said tobacco transnationals had invested in electronic cigarettes but had not stopped efforts to "attack and dilute" tobacco control policies nor announced a phase-out of traditional cigarettes products.

"From this, we can conclude that the companies' best hopes are for people to smoke and to use ECs or 'vape', not to use ECs instead of smoking," the paper said.

Prof Chapman said electronic cigarettes were made more attractive to young people with numerous flavours.

He said even if the new cigarettes do prove less dangerous than cigarettes "future policy development in Australia will need to carefully consider how adult smokers wanting access to these products can best be facilitated without reversing the decades-long decline in youth smoking".