Benalla’s Michael Kerr was on up to 75 cigarettes a day. Now he is on none.
The reason? Vaping with nicotine.
Last month, Benalla was one of several stops for vaping advocates aboard the Force One Vape Bus, as they travel the state to raise awareness for legalising vaping with nicotine.
With nicotine the additive quality of a cigarette, its practice in e-cigarettes is currently illegal, but advocacy group Legalise Vaping Australia along with Mr Kerr said nicotine vaping was a good alternative to help people quit smoking.
Mr Kerr, who operates an online Vaping store, said he had tried other alternates for quitting smoking, including patches and gums, but nothing worked until he took up vaping.
‘‘Vaping’s something that mimics the draw of a cigarette, so that it feels like you are smoking, but it’s better for you,’’ Mr Kerr said.
Ultimately it was health and money that pushed Mr Kerr to make the change.
‘‘I want to be alive when my kids get married and I also want to have money to spend on them,’’ he said.
‘‘I spent $300-plus a week on cigarettes, this (vape) costs me about $25 a week, it’s a big difference.’’
The Force One Vape Bus is on a month-long tour, and Brian Marlow, the campaign director for Legalise Vaping Australia, also spoke to The Ensign about what they wanted to achieve.
‘‘Health bodies in Australia seem to have an abstinence-only approach when it comes to smokers,’’ Mr Marlow said.
‘‘They say, ‘smoking is bad for you and you should quit,’ and we agree with that, except the issue is the remaining smokers, about 13 per cent of the population are not quitting.
‘‘We have the most expensive cigarettes in the world, we have ads telling these people it’s going to kill them, we have plain packaging and smoking rates have flatlined here.
‘‘Every country we follow the lead on, where vaping has been legalised, their smoking rates have plummeted.
‘‘If health bodies want to help smokers, they should legalise this, so these people aren’t breaking the law.’’
And Mr Marlow said it was the most vulnerable, such as working Australians, the indigenous and mental health sufferers who were hurt the most.
‘‘We are taxing people who are struggling, to try and get them to quit, but they are not quitting,’’ Mr Marlow said.
While people can ship nicotine in from overseas, in Victoria, the fine for vaping with the substance is $15546.
Mr Marlow said this created a barrier to entry for smokers.
There seems to be growing evidence that this practice could be an effective way for people to quit smoking.
Alongside more than 55 scientific studies, a UK Royal College of Physicians study from 2016 said: ‘‘E-cigarettes appear to be effective when used by smokers as an aid to quit smoking.’’
But it is Victorian Drugs, Poisons and Controlled Substances laws, coupled with Federal legislation that prohibits the sale of nicotine for use in e-cigarettes.
As such the Victorian Government has taken a safety-first approach to vaping, and while there continues to be growing independent research and studies into e-cigarettes, the government’s stance is there is not sufficient evidence to confirm that e-cigarettes are an effective way to quit smoking - and that the long-term health outcomes of using e-cigarettes are currently unknown.
‘‘The Andrews Labor Government has already introduced tough new laws regulating the advertising, sale and use of e-cigarettes, so that they mirror tobacco products,’’ Health Minister Jenny Mikakos said.
Ms Mikakos also said the Victorian Government had major concerns that e-cigarettes were playing a role as a gateway for young people to start smoking or develop nicotine addictions.
For Legalise Vaping Australia and Mr Kerr, they just want people to know there is an alternative and are looking forward to hearing from the new member elect for Indi for their response to the issue on a federal law level.