September 17, 2013 - Australia could become the first major nation to outlaw smoking, with a federal government-funded trial about to test the viability of electronic cigarettes as a safer, permanent replacement for tobacco.
Medical experts, cancer groups and anti-smoking lobbyists battled for decades to rid cigarettes from public spaces.
''E-cigarettes'' are battery-powered devices that simulate the effects of smoking by heating a nicotine liquid into vapour, which the user then inhales and exhales.
While the gadgets have been hailed as a safer substitute for cigarettes, there is no comprehensive scientific research into the health risks of inhaling vapour.
The Sun-Herald can reveal that as part of its anti-smoking reform agenda, the previous Labor government committed more than $1 million to a pioneering study that, by 2015, will determine whether or not e-cigarettes could be utilised to phase out traditional cigarettes altogether.
But while Labor took on ''big tobacco'' in the High Court to introduce world-first plain packaging laws and vowed to ban all political donations from tobacco companies, it is uncertain if the Coalition is equally committed.