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What’s goin’ down down under?

Phillip Morris has closed a cigarette factory in Australia, claiming that it was underutilized because of export restrictions and strong plain packaging regulations down under.

This comes on the heels of a plant closure in the Netherlands, leading investors to wonder whether the Big Tobacco megalith will be able to weather the storms facing it. Of course parent company Altria, with its new Mark Ten e-cigarette, and its take-over of formerly independent e-cig company Green Smoke, is trying to use the vaping phenomenon, and the vaping community, as a rescue mechanism to shore up its beleaguered cash reserves. It remains to be seen whether they will be successful.

Anyone over 18 in WA can legally smoke a cigarette containing multiple chemicals and carcinogens, but cannot buy the electronic version which many claim has assisted thousands of smokers to quit worldwide.

Meanwhile, a court in Western Australia has slapped criminal charges on an electronic cigarette manufacturer, HeavenlyVapours, for promoting website sales of e-liquids containing nicotine. Up until this ruling, sale of liquid nicotine was banned on the ground but permitted online. This ruling could have the effect of banning e-cigs altogether. According to Eamonn Duff in the Sydney Morning Herald"Anyone over 18 in WA can legally smoke a cigarette containing multiple chemicals and carcinogens, but cannot buy the electronic version which many claim has assisted thousands of smokers to quit worldwide." 

In 2011, Health Ministry operatives raided HeavenlyVapours under a law banning anything that "mimics" a cigarette, but the company was acquitted based on the fact that their vapourizers do not look like cigarettes, but like fountain pens. The Health Department appealed, arguing that anything that involves ''a hand to mouth action'' resulting in an ''expulsion of vapour'' resembles a cigarette no matter what it looks like. The Customs Service of Australia does not prohibit the import of e-cigarettes as long as therapeutic claims are not made for them. "Liquid nicotine, is scheduled as a 'Schedule 7 Poison'... The listing of a poison in Schedule 7 does not usually justify an import prohibition," says the website of the Customs Service.

The site goes on to say: "E-cigarettes (and/or their components) are not prohibited imports under Customs law. However, they may be subject to control under the Therapeutic Goods Act 1989 if the packaging makes a claim about any form of therapeutic benefit." Therefore, although everyone agrees that the primary identity of e-cigarettes is their purported ability to helps smokers quit, saying this in Australia will result in their becoming unavailable, in favor of plain-packaged cigarettes, which certifiably kill many people. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) oversees such matters, and they have declared that "Nicotine is classified by law as a dangerous poison. States and territories have responsibility for regulating dangerous poisons. In all states and territories, the retail sale of nicotine is an offence unless a permit has been issued by the relevant state or territory authority. In some states and territories, obtaining, purchasing, possession and/or using nicotine without a permit is an offence.

In most jurisdictions there are similar controls on manufacturing (including mixing), storage, labelling and packaging and other aspects of dangerous poisons." Therefore, the dangerous poison nicotine may only be consumed in combination with other, more dangerous, poisons (in combustible cigarettes sold in plain packages), but not in a delivery device that merely supplies the one poison of nicotine. This is because "the quality and safety of electronic cigarettes is not known", while that of cigarettes is well known. It is unquestionably lethal, while e-cigarettes may be non-lethal. So the lethal product is permitted, as long as it is sold in plain packages, while the product which may not be lethal (indeed which everyone agrees is certain to be much less dangerous, even if minor damages are uncovered) is prohibited.

It must be wonderful to live in a land that so carefully watches out for the health of its citizens!