Australia’s federal Liberal Party has voted for an independent scientific inquiry into vaping, potentially paving the way for the legalisation of nicotine-containing e-cigarette products.

Health Minister Greg Hunt agreed to commission the inquiry during a party meeting earlier today.

News of the inquiry comes after the Western Australia state Liberal Party called for the legalisation of vaping at its state conference back in August.

New South Wales Liberal Trent Zimmerman has been instrumental in the party’s push to legalise the smoke-free alternative since he published a dissenting report refuting the health committee’s majority position on the legalisation of e-cigarettes earlier this year.

Zimmerman wrote:

“While the evidence base regarding e-cigarettes is still emerging, there are clear indications that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to human health than smoking tobacco cigarettes. If long-term smokers who have been unable to quit smoking tobacco cigarettes switch to e-cigarettes, thousands of lives could be saved.”

In stark contrast to countries like the US, UK and Canada where vaping is legal, the smoking rate in some Australian states is actually increasing. The country also has the most expensive cigarette prices in the world. As of this month’s tax increase, smokers pay around $40 for a single pack.