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The popularity of electronic cigarettes has increased drastically over the past six months. Seen as a tool for quitting smoking, the use of e-cigarettes has been endorsed by celebrities such as Leonardo Di Caprio, Lindsay Lohan and Cara Delevingne. Lately, e-cigarettes have been praised for their success rate in helping smokers cut down and eventually quit smoking. However, for residents in Western Australia, it is now illegal to purchase the habit-kicking devices.

The sale of electronic cigarettes has been banned in Western Australia this week, with the device facing the possibility of be outlawed across Australia.

The ban on e-cigarettes has stemmed from action against electronic cigarette seller Heavenly Vapours. The Supreme Court ruled that the business sold a product that was designed to resemble a cigarette, which in consequence, was in breach of the Tobacco Products Control Act 2006 (WA).

The case started in 2011 when the WA Health Department arrived with a search warrant at the home of Vincent Van Heerden, who at the time was starting his small business Heavenly Vapours. As a result of this raid, nine e-cigarette atomisers and 60 packages of e-cigarettes were seized by the Health Department.

The chargers were soon rejected in the magistrates Court, but the Health Department successfully appealed to the Supreme Court.

As a result of the new law in WA, anyone over the age of 18 can purchase a pack of cigarettes with all chemicals included, however it is now illegal for them to purchase a battery-powered electronic cigarette which contains a significant purer form of nicotine, and is a tool used for quitting smoking. “One can only imagine that the other states may now try to follow suit,” Van Heerden says.

Van Heerden is due to be sentenced within the next two weeks. In response to the ban, he has started a crowd fund to finance action to free electronic cigarettes from legal constraints. So far, he has raised $19,600 or a $50,000 target. “We can and will defend our right to make informed choices and to choose, where possible, a less harmful alternative,” he said.

A study in the New Zealand medical journal Lancet found electronic cigarettes to be modestly effective in helping people quite cigarette smoking.

Professor of Health Law and Governance at the University of Sydney, Roger Magnusson, says the WA Supreme Court decision have definite implication for e-cigarette retailers in other states. Magnusson believes it is “breathlessly naïve to assume e-cigarettes will function only or mainly as a quitting device for smokers. US research suggests these products are a gateway to smoking as often as a gateway from smoking,” he says. “If they are such a great quit smoking device, they might nevertheless be made available to smokers on prescription.”

Nicotine is a Schedule 2 drug in Australia, which means it can only be sold through pharmacies. Many Australian’s order nicotine cartridges for their e-cigarettes online, most frequently from the States and New Zealand. Until now, the e-cigarette devices have been freely available for sale in Australia.


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