THE DE­BATE IN AUS­TRALIA

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - Body and Soul - - REPORT -

Some ex­perts are crit­i­cal of Aus­tralian author­i­ties’ hard-line ap­proach against e-cig­a­rettes, es­pe­cially as health or­gan­i­sa­tions in the EU, UK and New Zealand seem more open to them as a harm-re­duc­tion tool com­pared with to­bacco. In fact, the Royal College of Physi­cians in the UK says they “ap­pear to be ef­fec­tive” as a smok­ing ces­sa­tion tool.

It’s a view that some Aussie doc­tors aren’t en­tirely op­posed to, with Dr Colin Men­del­sohn, an as­so­ciate pro­fes­sor of pub­lic health at the Univer­sity of New South Wales, telling the ABC: “We have a very large pop­u­la­tion of smok­ers who can’t quit with what we’re cur­rently do­ing.”

How­ever, Mau­rice Swan­son, pres­i­dent of the Aus­tralian Coun­cil on Smok­ing and Health, doesn’t be­lieve e-cig­a­rettes are the so­lu­tion.

“It’s very pre­ma­ture to cal­cu­late pre­dic­tions on the harms of va­p­ing com­pared to cig­a­rettes, due to rel­a­tively few high-qual­ity stud­ies, the ab­sence of long-term fol­low-up, lack of stan­dard­ised test­ing meth­ods and rapid changes in e-cig­a­rette prod­ucts,” he says.

“Be­cause cig­a­rettes are the most harm­ful le­gal prod­uct that’s avail­able to con­sumers, ev­ery­thing will ap­pear ‘less dam­ag­ing’ in com­par­i­son, he adds. “E-cig­a­rette aerosol is a mix­ture of ul­tra-fine par­ti­cles of met­als, nico­tine, and other in­gre­di­ents such as flavour­ing and gly­cols. The long-term health ef­fects or safety of in­hal­ing these sub­stances as aerosol hasn’t been eval­u­ated.”

Swan­son is also con­cerned with the man­ner in which e-cig­a­rettes are be­ing pre­sented to younger po­ten­tial smok­ers.

“The ma­jor in­ter­na­tional to­bacco com­pa­nies own all the top e-cig­a­rette brands and these com­pa­nies have a vested in­ter­est in con­tin­u­ing to pro­mote smok­ing be­hav­iour and prod­ucts among young peo­ple,” he ex­plains. “E-cig­a­rette mar­ket­ing mir­rors the glam­ouris­ing tac­tics that were pre­vi­ously used by to­bacco com­pa­nies.”

For now, it’s a case of ap­proach­ing e-cig­a­rettes with ex­treme cau­tion – that’s the stance of Pro­fes­sor Chris­tine Jenk­ins, chair­woman of the Lung Foun­da­tion Aus­tralia.

“We recog­nise that in the short term, e-cig­a­rettes may be less harm­ful than cig­a­rette smok­ing and un­der­stand there’s a push for e-cig­a­rettes to play a role in smok­ing ces­sa­tion,” she says. “But the ev­i­dence for their ef­fec­tive­ness in smok­ing ces­sa­tion isn’t yet es­tab­lished. It’s time to fo­cus on sup­port­ing the up­take of the tried and tested meth­ods of smok­ing ces­sa­tion.”

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