The West

Fine follows landmark e-ciggie ban
Vince Van Heerden leaves court after being prosecuted by the WA Health Department for selling e-cigarettes. Picture: Bill Hatto / The west Australian

The man whose small business selling e-cigarettes sparked a landmark case which has seen the products banned from sale in Western Australia has been fined $1750 by the Supreme Court.

The prosecution of Vince Van Heerden by the WA Health Department made WA the first jurisdiction in the world to outlaw the sale of e-cigarettes.

And after a judge was convinced it should be illegal to sell e-cigarettes containing no nicotine, because they merely resemble a cigarette or cigar, the court today imposed the fine.

An application for a spent conviction order for Van Heerden was denied by Justice Janine Pritchard, who also ordered he pay costs of just over $14,000.

Van Heerden said after the hearing he fully intended to fight on against the ruling, claiming he did not want lives ruined by smoking on his conscience.

"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, Van Heerden said.

"If we allow a law to be used in a way it wasn't designed to be, I can't have that on my conscience that I did not try."

The West Australian first revealed in April that a test case against the Duncraig company selling e-cigarettes online, under the banner Heavenly Vapours, had brought about the landmark ruling.

The battery-powered devices do not burn tobacco but turn nicotine or fruit flavours into vapour which is inhaled and exhaled.

A magistrate originally ruled there was not enough evidence to prove the two types of e-cigarettes sold looked like real cigarettes.

But after an appeal from WA health bosses, Supreme Court Justice Pritchard ruled selling e-cigarettes in WA should result in a trader being prosecuted.

In sentencing, Judge Pritchard said that the offence was at the lower end of the scale - but was not trivial.

She also accepted that at the time of the offence in 2012, the 33 year-old honestly believed e-cigarettes were a healthy alternative to tobacco cigarettes.

The ruling has provoked vociferous debate around the world, with proponents claiming e-cigarettes an effective smoking cessation aid, while health campaigners fear the devices will encourage young people to smoke the real thing.

Australian Council on Smoking and Health president Mike Daube said the judgment was an important step in the continuing battle against smoking.

Last year, the Cancer Council of WA called for the promotion, sale and use of e-cigarettes to be banned, arguing they could become starter products for children and ex-smokers.

The West Australian

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