Following yesterday’s interim decision by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) to block the sale of ‘heat not burn’ (HNB) tobacco products in Australia, the Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) today released a statement welcoming the decision.
After lobbying earlier this year against HNB products because long-term risks have not been established and more research is required, RACGP President Dr Harry Nespolon says the decision is a positive step forward.
“This is only an interim decision but most welcome the 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 Philip Morris’s application to amend the Poisons Standard to make HNB tobacco available in Australia.”
Dr Nespolon adds that while claims have been made that HNB products “pose a lower risk to health due to a milder exposure to toxicants”, these claims have “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’.
“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,” says Dr Nespolon, adding that claims and campaigns concerning tobacco control need 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 with extreme caution.”
Following the announcement of the interim decision, Philip Morris Limited (PML) Managing Director Tammy Chan says that while they are disappointed with the interim decision, “PML will continue to address concerns raised by the Scheduling Committee” regarding their application, and will continue to “engage with other regulators as we call for law reform backed by solid science”.
“We request that the Scheduling Committee re-assess the science and data relating to heated tobacco products and reconsider its determination in light of international regulatory approaches to these products,” says Ms Chan.
A final decision on the application is expected in August 2020.