An application to the TGA to increase the accessibility of nicotine for e-cigarettes to reduce tobacco smoking is unlikely to succeed, says an addiction expert, because harm minimisation strategies are rarely applied to smoking.
The TGA is seeking comments from interested parties on a proposed amendment to the Poisons Standard which would exempt nicotine from Schedule 7 at concentrations of 3.6% or less of nicotine, for self-administration with an electronic nicotine delivery system for the purpose of tobacco harm reduction.
But Professor Wayne Hall, Inaugural Director of the Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research at the University of Queensland, told the AJP that opposition to the change is likely to be strong and result in the application’s failure.
“I expect the proposal to be strongly opposed by the majority of people in the Australian tobacco control community, for example Simon Chapman, Mike Daube, Melanie Wakefield which will make it unlikely to be accepted by the TGA,” Prof Hall says.
E-cigarettes could lead to a 21 per cent drop in deaths from smoking-related diseases in those born after 1997, according to a study published in Nicotine & Tobacco Research.
The US study, funded by the National Institute on Drug Abuse, the National Cancer Institute and the Cancer Intervention and Surveillance Modeling Network, found that under most plausible scenarios e-cigarettes and other vapour products have a generally positive public health impact.
Many studies have sought to assess the impact of e-cigarettes on public health, with conflicting results. This year a University of California study of high school students found that those who used e-cigarettes were more than twice as likely to also smoke traditional cigarettes.
Banning e-cigarettes in public spaces could be “damaging”, health officials have said. The comments from Public Health England (PHE) come after a medic at the British Medical Association’s annual meeting in Belfast called for restrictions on places where e-cigarettes can be used in public.
But if such a policy was in place, it may put off smokers from using e-cigarettes to help them quit, PHE said.
Rosanna O’Connor, director of drugs, alcohol and tobacco at PHE, said: “Vaping is not the same as smoking, second-hand smoke is harmful to health but there is no evidence that e-cigarette vapour carries the same harms.
Electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are battery-powered devices that simulate a smoking experience. The devices heat a nicotine-containing liquid to produce a mist that the user inhales. The inhaled vapour does not contain tobacco, tar or carbon monoxide, and is generally agreed to be much safer than smoke; probably about 95 per cent safer. Nicotine itself has relatively minor health effects.
E-cigarettes are at least as effective as nicotine patches or gum in helping smokers to quit. For those who are unable to quit, e-cigarettes can substitute for smoking by providing the nicotine to which smokers are addicted without the smoke that causes almost all of the harm (“tobacco harm reduction”).
Australia currently has a de facto ban on e-cigarettes due to a historical classification of nicotine as a schedule 7 dangerous poison. Sale, possession and use of nicotine in a vaporiser is an offence.
A new report by the Royal College of Physicians in the United Kingdom says electronic cigarettes (e-cigarettes) are much safer than smoking and encourages their widespread use by smokers. It concludes that e-cigarettes have huge potential to prevent death and disease from tobacco use.
The review identifies e-cigarettes as a valuable tool to help smokers quit. For those who are unable to quit with currently available methods, e-cigarettes can substitute for smoking by providing the nicotine to which smokers are addicted without the smoke that causes almost all of the harm. This approach is supported by the scientific and public health community in the UK and is consistent with a previous review by Public Health England, the government health agency.
RSPH welcomes the new report by the Royal College of Physicians (RCP), ‘Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction’, which recognises that e-cigarettes offer a vastly safer alternative to tobacco and for some, may be a useful smoking cessation tool.
Since e-cigarettes entered the market in the mid-2000s, the popularity of these products has grown exponentially, with an estimated 2.6 million users in the UK. However e-cigarette-use, or ‘vaping’, has not been without controversy, with some raising concerns about the safety and long-term impact of these products.
Evidence to date indicates that e-cigarette-use presents just a fraction of the risk associated with tobacco smoking, due to the absence of the vast majority of the 4000 toxicants and carcinogens present in combustible tobacco products. An evidence review released last year by Public Health England estimates that e-cigarettes are roughly 95% less harmful than smoked tobacco.
The Royal College of Physicians’ new report, ‘Nicotine without smoke: tobacco harm reduction’, has concluded that e-cigarettes are likely to be beneficial to UK public health. Smokers can therefore be reassured and encouraged to use them, and the public can be reassured that e-cigarettes are much safer than smoking.
A Victorian doctor is calling for an end to confusing and contradictory laws restricting the use of electronic cigarettes, arguing that they have the potential to save the lives of smokers struggling to kick the habit.
Attila Danko, an emergency department doctor from Ballarat, has established the New Nicotine Alliance Australia, modelled on the similarly titled British lobby group, in a bid to counter a “misinformation campaign” about the risks of e-cigarettes.
The group has latched on to landmark research released last week by Public Health England, an independent arm of Britain’s Department of Health, which found e-cigarettes — battery-powered vaporisers that stimulate smoking, but without tobacco combustion — were about 95 per cent less harmful than cigarettes.