Knowledge is power. Learn more about smoking and its risks, and treatment options to help you quit once and for all.
Globally, one in ten deaths are related to smoking and in Australia, over 20,000 people die each due to smoking. Over 40% of lung diseases in Australia are caused by smoking, as well as over 20% of cancers, and over 10% of heart disease. If you’re a smoker, you have roughly a 50/50 chance of dying from a smoking related cause.
Around 1 in 8 Australians smoke daily, while 6 in 10 have never smoked. Smoking rates in Australia have steadily declined over the past 30 years, due to better public health awareness, smoking becoming less socially acceptable, and the price of cigarettes increasing. Unfortunately though, this decline in smoking rates has stalled, hovering between 10-15% of adults.
While smoking remains legal for Australian adults, smoking causes more deaths than alcohol and all illegal drugs combined.
If you’re a smoker, the best age to quit is whatever age you are now! Quitting before the age of 40 reduces the long term risk of death associated with continued smoking by 90%. Quitting before the age of 30 reduces this risk by 90%. Even if you’ve smoked for over 40 years, if you quit smoking at the age of 65, your life expectancy increases by 2-4 years.
No! The good news is if you quit smoking, much of the damage done can be reversed. Recent studies have shown that even for heavy smokers who have smoked for 40 years, undamaged cells in the lungs can slowly repair damaged cells over time. The longer you stay off the cigarettes, the more the body can repair. After one year, your risk of heart disease falls to 50% that of a smoker. After five years, your risk of stroke is the same as someone who has never smoked. Over time, your risk of developing cancer continues to decline.
Nicotine is an extremely addictive drug, meaning quitting smoking is much harder than most never-smokers can understand. Some smokers are able to quit cold-turkey by sheer willpower at their first attempt, but unfortunately for most smokers this isn’t possible, and more support is required. The majority of smokers have attempted to quit multiple times, and around 30% of smokers have made a serious quit attempt within the past 12 months. For the majority of smokers, the first quit attempt will be unsuccessful, with most smokers requiring multiple attempts before quitting for good.
The average cigarette contains approximately 10mg of nicotine. However when you smoke, much of the nicotine is burnt off and not inhaled. Typically most smokers will absorb 1-1.5mg of nicotine per cigarette, meaning a pack a day smoker typically absorbs 20-30mg per day. If you decide to quit via nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) you should try to limit your nicotine intake to equal or less than your normal intake of nicotine that you would have received via smoking. Similarly, if you are prescribed a nicotine pod device that contains 40mg per pod, try to make the pod last 2 days.
Around 25% of smokers have only a few cigarettes a day, or smoke every now and then. The fewer cigarettes you smoke the better, but even light smoking or ‘social smoking’ significantly increases your risk of heart disease, cancer, eye disease, and many other serious health conditions.
Various studies globally have compared how effective different quit methods are, with varying results.
The most common way of quitting is ‘cold-turkey’ but it is also the most difficult. This is a very low risk approach though, and is probably the best way to try first, particularly if you’re only a social or light smoker.
For smokers who are unable to quit cold-turkey, research has consistently shown that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) in the form of gums or patches increases the likelihood of success, and is very safe, so is a good next step.
If NRT and cold-turkey are unsuccessful, prescription options such as Varenicline (Champix), Bupropion (Zyban) or e-cigarettes/vaped nicotine have all been shown in some studies to be more effective than NRT. However all these prescription options come with an increased chances of side effects, or unknown long term risks.
Ultimately, the best way to quit smoking is the way that works for you.
Vaping is legal in Australia, however if you are vaping liquid that contains nicotine, you need a prescription from an Australian doctor. There are severe penalties for importing or possessing nicotine liquid without a prescription, including fines of over $10,000 in some states, or even prison time.
A prescription for nicotine can be written by any Australian doctor. The doctor needs to either be an Authorised Prescriber (AP) of nicotine, or fill out a Special Access Scheme B (SAS B) form. One submitted to the TGA, the TGA will likely approve a nicotine prescription within a few days. All Quit Clinics doctors are Authorised prescribers of nicotine, so a SAS B form isn’t needed, meaning a prescription can be written immediately. Eligible patients are typically reviewed and a prescription issued within 24 hours.
Once you have a prescription you can purchase nicotine from an Australian pharmacy, or from overseas via the Personal Importation Scheme. If you decide to import from an overseas online retailer, you can only legally import a maximum of 3 months supply. If you decide to purchase from a retailer based overseas, be sure to buy from a reputable supplier who is able to provide quality and safety data. You can legally purchase vaping devices, and non-nicotine containing vaping liquid at vape shops, and other Australian retailers.
A landmark review in 2015 by Public Health England concluded that vaping was at least 95% safer than smoking cigarettes. This figure was debated in the recent Tobacco Harm Reduction Senate Inquiry. At the senate inquiry almost all expert witnesses, even strong critics of vaping agreed that vaping was significantly safer than smoking.
Vaping is regarded as much safer than smoking largely because the 1000s of potentially toxic chemicals in cigarette smoke are either not present in vaping, or are present at significantly lower levels.
While vaping is significantly safer than smoking, it is not risk free. Vaping is a relatively new technology, so we’re still learning what the long term risks may be. Vaping shouldn’t be seen as a long-term solution and is only suitable for smokers who have first tried other methods to quit (like cold-turkey and nicotine gum and patches).
The safest option is to quit vaping and smoking altogether. However, if you’re otherwise unable to quit smoking, vaping is often a good way to kick the habit. Over time you should aim to reduce the amount of nicotine you vape gradually. One advantage of vaping is that different strengths of nicotine are available, so you can gradually reduce your nicotine over time. A good goal is to quit smoking NOW, and then use your vape to wean your nicotine use over 12 months, aiming to quit nicotine within one year.
Concern about the short term risks of vaping (months to a few years) stem from a number of vaping related deaths in the USA. As of January 2020, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed 60 deaths in patients with e-cigarette, or vaping, product use associated lung injury (EVALI). These cases predominantly affected people who had either modified their vaping devices, or used black market modified e-liquids that contained THC, and in particular, vitamin E acetate. Vitamin E acetate is a thickening agent often used in THC vaping products, and it was found in all lung fluid samples of EVALI patients examined by the CDC. No cases have been reported of nicotine only vaping products. It is imperative that if you’re considering vaping that you purchase your products from a trusted supplier, either an Australian pharmacy, or a supplier that can show you safety data that confirms their products are free from THC and vitamin E acetate.
The cost of vaping depends on a number of factors, including the device you are using, the strength of the nicotine you use, and how much liquid you use. For smokers new to vaping, a pod device is typically recommended, as they are safer and easy to use, and closely mimic the smoking ritual. High quality pod devices cost around $40, and replacement pods cost around $10. On average a typical pack per day smoker can expect to pay $5 per day, compared to up to $50 for a pack of cigarettes.
To minimise the risk of harm and to promote the manufacture of high quality, safe products, Quit Clinics has set the following standards for unapproved products:
- Childproof packaging of all products.
- Emissions testing data verified by Quit Clinics.
- Quality systems for production ISO 9001, 14001, 45001, and for devices 13485 Certifications and IEC electrical standards applicable such as EN60335, EN61000, EN55014.
- Pharmaceutical product data sheets, Safety data sheets, Product risk assessments, toxicology assessments, and third party certificates of analysis verified by Quit Clinics.
- A Pharmacovigilance system to monitor, record and report any adverse reactions.
No. If a Quit Clinics doctor prescribes nicotine to vape, they will prescribe a finished product/s and specify a precise concentration/s, taking into account a patient’s medical and smoking history. While some people have experience mixing the concentrated nicotine with flavours, Quit Clinics does not support this practice, due to the unnecessary additional risk it poses to patients.
We’re Here to Help
The day you decide to put out your last cigarette is one of the most important days of your life. However, deciding to quit smoking is just the first step of an incredibly difficult journey.
For many smokers, quitting ‘cold-turkey’ or via the use of nicotine gum or patches hasn’t been possible, and many need extra medical support. Quit Clinics is an affordable, judgement-free, online medical clinic that utilises recent advancements in medicine and technology to help you quit for good.
Whether it be advice, counselling, nicotine replacement, prescription medication or cigarette alternatives like e-cigarettes/vaping, our doctors will work with you to find the best solution to assist in your quit journey.