West Australia has recently become the first region to ban e-cigarettes completely. Since last year, the Cancer Council of WA has been pushing for the advertising, sale, and the use of all electronic cigarettes to be banned. They state that these devices could easily become “starter products for children and ex-smokers”. Well it appears that the WA Supreme Court may have finally found an e-cigarette vendor to project all their fears onto.
A man by the name of Vince Van Heerden was prosecuted and fined $1,750 for selling non-nicotine e-cigarettes in his small business, simply because they looked too similar to traditional cigarettes or cigars. Additionally, Justice Janine Pritchard denied Van Heerden’s application for a spent conviction order, (which would allow him to not disclose that he was charged with a crime, in order to prevent being discriminated against), as well as further fining Van Heerden with over $14,000. By prosecuting Van Heerden, the WA Health Department transformed West Australia into the first jurisdiction in the world to make the sale of electronic cigarettes illegal.
Obviously this ruling has generated an enormous amount of conflict and resistance arising from both sides of the issue. Numerous past smokers passionately believe in the positive benefits of e-cigarettes and also attribute quitting smoking to the use of these devices. Van Heerden is one of these people and strongly believes he must fight against this ruling stating, “I have to fight on. I know that my health has changed dramatically because of the use of electronic cigarettes and I know the lives of dozens of people that have been changed”. However, on the converse side of the issue various health officials and activists fear the unknown health effects of e-cigarettes and worry they will be tempting to children or be used as a gateway to traditional cigarettes.