Have e-cigs opened the door to a total ban on cigarettes?

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An Australian expert has suggested it may be time to outlaw the sale of combustible tobacco products such as cigarettes. She says the rapid evolution of alternative nicotine products such as e-cigarettes means a total ban is now possible. The commentary comes on the back of a US study, including an Australian researcher, which modeled the health impacts of smokers switching to e-cigarettes. The modelling suggests between 1.6 and 6.6 million premature deaths could be prevented in the US over ten years.

Journal/conference: Tobacco Control

DOI: 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2017-053969; 10.1136/tobaccocontrol-2017-053759

Organisation/s: Menzies School of Health Research, The University of Melbourne, Cancer Council Victoria, Georgetown University Medical Center, USA

Media Release

From: The BMJ

Is it time to outlaw cigarette sales in Australia?

A Menzies School of Health (Menzies) researcher believes a ban on the sale of cigarettes and other combustible tobacco products needs to be considered.

In a commentary published in the international journal Tobacco Control, Dr Marita Hefler said “The ongoing availability of cigarettes is an historical anomaly. Any other consumer product that kills up to two-thirds of its long-term users remaining legal is unimaginable.”

The commentary was published in response to a research paper which found up to 6.6 million premature deaths could be prevented over a ten year period in the US if smokers switched to e-cigarettes.

“E-cigarettes and heat-not-burn (HNB) products most closely mimic the nicotine delivery of cigarettes and have the greatest potential to displace the cigarette market.”

Debate about the potential benefits and risks of these products has divided the public health community in recent years, Dr Hefler says. “Combustible tobacco is the most harmful end of the nicotine product spectrum and should be phased out. E-cigarettes and HNB products are not harmless. However they are almost certainly lower risk than cigarettes for current smokers.”

In conjunction with phasing out cigarette sales, Dr Hefler is recommending that the less harmful products including e-cigarettes should be permitted in Australia with tight regulations equivalent to what is currently applied to cigarettes.

Ongoing independent research is also needed into the long term effects of using HNB and e-cigarettes, as knowledge is still evolving.


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  • The BMJ
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