The man at the centre of a landmark legal case says he will appeal a West Australian Supreme Court judgment that deemed his sale of electronic cigarettes illegal.
In April, Vincent van Heerden of online business Heavenly Vapours lost a case brought against him by the WA Health Department that made the state the first jurisdiction in the world to outlaw the sale of e-cigarettes.
The company had been selling battery-powered devices that turned “eJuice” liquid into a flavoured vapour.
Van Heerden was convicted under the state’s Tobacco Products Control Act, which prohibits the sale of any food, toy or other product that is not a tobacco product but is designed to resemble one.
His next court appearance scheduled for Tuesday was to have been a sentencing hearing but will instead be the launch pad for his appeal.
Van Heerden said he was uncertain the bid would prove successful, but the issue was an important one and it was crucial to continue the public debate around e-cigarettes.
While proponents claim they are an effective smoking cessation aid, some health campaigners fear the devices will encourage young people to smoke the real thing, and that they may not be safe because their production is unregulated.
Van Heerden rejected both arguments, saying e-cigarettes may be a “gateway” to a very small number of people, but to ban them was to deprive a much larger number of smokers a less harmful alternative to tobacco products.
“People will die,” he told AAP.
Van Heerden said one of his fiercest critics, Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Michael Daube, had a “quit or die mentality”, which ignored the difficulties of overcoming an addiction.
Professor Daube says e-cigarettes shouldn’t be sold until they are approved by the Therapeutic Goods Administration.
But van Heerden said that stance was “analogous to telling a drowning man not to get on a raft because it might have a leak”.
“No TGA approval is required for a recreational device,” he said.
“They haven’t been marketed in Australia as a cessation device, they have been marketed as an alternative to tobacco.
“We are asking for the right to choose a less harmful alternative.”
Van Heerden also said Prof Daube’s recent description of e-cigarette proponents as a “funny cult group” was “ridiculous and offensive”.
To pay for the appeal, van Heerden has raised $25,650 from 530 donors on crowd-funding site GoFundMe but says he also has substantial backing from other sources.