Smokers hit with another major blow


Another product said to be a better alternative to cigarettes won't be allowed in Australia, in a new blow for people trying to quit smoking.

The Therapeutic Goods Administration today rejected an application from Philip Morris, which would have allowed the sale of heated tobacco products, a smoke-free product that heats tobacco rather than burning it, said to result in a significant reduction in the number and levels of harmful chemicals emitted compared to cigarette smoke.

It comes after the Australian Government moved to ban the import of nicotine-based e-cigarettes. Vaping is considered as another alternative to help people quit smoking.

Health Minister Greg Hunt faced an industry campaign, petitions and lobbying from individuals in favour of vaping and co-ordinated pressure from some members of his backbench in response to his plans to implement a ban from July 1 this year.

Currently all states and territories ban the sale of e-cigarettes meaning people are forced to import both them and the refills.

The ban has now been pushed to the beginning of next year to allow a "group of people who have been using these e-cigarettes with nicotine as a means to ending their cigarette smoking" to end that addiction and gain prescriptions.

Under the ban, the import of vaporiser nicotine and e-cigarettes would only be approved with a doctor's prescription.

Heated tobacco devices heat real tobacco within a specific temperature range, while e-cigarettes vaporise an e-liquid solution containing nicotine.

In the latest TGA decision, 82 submissions supporting heated tobacco were received, including 77 submissions from people who, in general, had family members who were trying to quit smoking or were smokers themselves, and were advocating for access to heated tobacco products or e-cigarettes as an alternative to smoking.

The heated tobacco device from Philip Morris.
The heated tobacco device from Philip Morris.

Philip Morris managing director Tammy Chan said the government's stance on smoke-free products was increasingly at odds with other countries and comparable international regulators.

She said heated tobacco products were already available in 50 other countries.

"Study after study shows that scientifically substantiated smoke-free products that do not generate smoke, while not risk-free, are a much better alternative for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes," she said.

"It's time Australian authorities recognise that many adult smokers will continue to smoke cigarettes - the most harmful way of consuming nicotine - unless the government rethinks its tobacco control policy.

"Smoke-free products can play a role in reducing smoking rates."

Ms Chan said countries such as the UK and more recently New Zealand had regulated smoke-free products in a manner that encouraged adult smokers to switch to them, while seeking to minimise uptake by nonsmokers and young people.

Dr Attila Danko with an e-cigarette. He formed a lobby group in a bid to legalise e-cigarettes and provide smokers with another option in their pursuit to give up.
Dr Attila Danko with an e-cigarette. He formed a lobby group in a bid to legalise e-cigarettes and provide smokers with another option in their pursuit to give up.

On July 7, the Food and Drug Administration in the US concluded Philip Morris's tobacco heating system "is expected to benefit the health of the population as a whole".

But the TGA also received submissions from the Lung Foundation, Cancer Council Australia, Australian Council on Health and Smoking and the National Heart Foundation reiterating their strong concerns about the public health risks of exempting heated tobacco products from scheduling.

The TGA concluded there were significant safety concerns with heated tobacco products.

"None of the submissions provided have changed my assessment that nicotine presents a severe hazard from repeated use leading to potential addiction and a significant risk of producing irreversible toxicity, which may involve serious, acute or chronic health risks or death," a Delegate of the Secretary wrote.

They said they were not satisfied that there was a net public health benefit from wider availability of nicotine in the form of heated tobacco products.

Originally published as Smokers hit with another major blow

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