BENDIGO musician Karl Seymour hasn't had a cigarette for 140 days.
It is a significant achievement for a man who estimates he has smoked up to 40 cigarettes a day for the last 40 years.
But the 50-year-old hasn't kicked the unhealthy habit through the traditional methods of patches, gum or going cold turkey.
Instead, like a growing number of people around the world, he has turned to electronic cigarettes as a means of weaning himself off the cancer sticks.
E-cigarettes are battery-powered devices that come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours and burn a liquid to create an aerosol vapour.
The liquids themselves come in a range of flavours, including Red Bull, bubblegum and Skittles, and may or may not contain nicotine.
“I started smoking when I was 10 years old and I used to be a 35- to 40-a-day smoker,” Mr Seymour said.
“I tried to quit a few times but I was a nasty person to be around when I was off the smokes –people would actually beg me to start up again.
“But I gave e-cigarettes a shot about four months back and I haven’t had a cigarette since. In fact, I can’t stand the smell of the smoke now.”
Many health experts and quit-smoking groups are deeply concerned about the perception that e-cigarettes are a safe alternative to traditional cigarettes.
They hold concerns not only about the long-term health effects of inhaling the vapour, but that e-cigarettes will undo decades of progress by “re-normalising” smoking, especially among teenagers.
“Many Victorians would be horrified to realise that current laws make it possible for a child to buy a non-nicotine cigarette and puff away on flavours such as toffee or strawberry,” said Quit Victoria director Dr Sarah White.
“We don’t know exactly what these e-cigarettes contain, or how safe it is to inhale chemicals directly into the lungs.”
Mr Seymour’s decades of smoking lumbered him with a ferocious cough, caused circulation problems and left him tens of thousands of dollars out of pocket.
He said that since switching to e-cigarettes his cough has eased considerably, his fingers no longer go numb while drumming and he spends a fraction of the money on the habit he used to.
“It’s got to be better than smoking,” he said.
Bendigo security officer Glenn Corrigan, 43, agrees, saying he used e-cigarettes to quit traditional cigarettes after 20 years as a smoker.
He said he would like to see the government put money into researching the health impacts of e-cigarettes.
“I wouldn’t say it’s 100 per cent safe or anything like that but if it can help get people off the cancer sticks, then that’s got to be a good thing,” he said.