The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has today welcomed the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s (TGA) interim decision to block the sale of “heat not burn” tobacco products in Australia.
The RACGP argued in its submission to the TGA earlier this year that the long-term risks of heat not burn tobacco products have not been established and more research is required. Claims that heat not burn products pose a lower risk to health due to their milder exposure to toxicants have been refuted.
Heat not burn tobacco products feature aerosols containing nicotine and other chemicals and work by heating tobacco to up 350 degrees Celsius using battery-powered heating-systems as opposed to traditional cigarettes which burn down to a stub.
They are distinct from e-cigarettes and “vaping” products, which are battery operated devices that heat a liquid (called “e-liquid”) to produce a vapour that users inhale. These liquids contain a range of toxic chemicals and sometimes contain nicotine even if labelled “nicotine free”.
RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon said that today’s decision by the TGA was a positive step forward.
“This is only an interim decision but most welcome news because there is simply no evidence these products are any safer than smoking cigarettes. That is why the RACGP wrote to the TGA opposing Phillip Morris’s application to amend the Poisons Standard to make heat not burn tobacco available in Australia.
“Big Tobacco has one objective only – make larger profits by selling more of their products.
“Companies such as Phillip Morris have claimed that heat not burn tobacco products pose a lower risk to health due to a milder exposure to toxicants but this has recently been rebutted by academic research.
“This assertion is remarkably similar to earlier marketing campaigns by tobacco companies that promoted ‘light’ and ‘mild’ cigarettes as well as filtered and low-tar cigarettes as posing a ‘lower health risk’.
“Those campaigns are now illegal and we must always remain vigilant about what Big Tobacco is trying to sell us.
“In Australia we have made massive inroads in lowering tobacco use; however, we must remember that tobacco products still cause extraordinary harm to many people and there is much more work to be done.”
The RACGP President also said that various claims and campaigns concerning tobacco control needed to be carefully fact-checked.
“When we released our smoking cessation guidelines earlier this year it was unfortunate that our position on e-cigarettes and vaping was misrepresented by some pro-vaping organisations who claimed we were coming out ‘in support’ of vaping.
“That is not the case – as I said at the time repeatedly the RACGP does not endorse vaping. Our guideline’s conditional recommendation notes that it’s only a reasonable intervention in very limited circumstances and that the long-term health effects are unknown. So we need to approach it with extreme caution.
“The RACGP will continue its campaign of anti-smoking messages, including opposition to heat not burn tobacco products, and always take up the fight to Big Tobacco.”
The RACGP was selected as one of the recipients of the 2020 World No Tobacco Day awards for its valuable work including the release of new Smoking Cessation Guidelines 2020. The guidelines provide up to date and evidence-based recommendations that can be used by a wide range of health professionals when helping patients to quit smoking.