Health advocates urge review of research on e-cigarettes


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Media release

5 October 2017

A group of leading Australian health experts is urging Australia's peak health body, the National Health and Medical Research Council, (NHMRC) to conduct a thorough and up-to-date review of the latest science relevant to e-cigarettes.

They say the latest evidence suggests that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking and could lead to substantial improvement in public health.

Seventy Australian academics, researchers and clinicians with a special interest in public health, tobacco control and drug and alcohol treatment are co-signatories to the letter which calls on the NHMRC to commission an open and comprehensive review of the evidence. (See below for list of signatories)

Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales said he hoped a new review would take a harm reduction perspective. “E-cigarettes are being used by smokers and ex-smokers as a less harmful alternative to an existing consumer product - combustible tobacco - that prematurely kills up to two thirds of its long-term users.1

“The science on e-cigarettes has evolved substantially since the NHMRC did its previous review,2 so it is time to look at what the latest research tells us about their potential for reducing tobacco-related death and disease in Australia” said Professor Mendelsohn.

Dr Alex Wodak, President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, said it was timely to commission a new review. “Increasing the quit rate is particularly important now as Australia’s smoking rate has not declined significantly over the last 3 years for the first time in decades, according to the National Drug Strategy Household Surveys (2013-2016)” he  said.3, 4

“E-cigarettes appear to be contributing to the faster decline in smoking rates in other countries where they are freely available.5

The potential benefit of e-cigarettes was confirmed with the release of a study in Tobacco Control this week calculating that their widespread uptake by smokers could prevent 6.6 million premature smoking-related deaths in the US over 10 years, after allowing for any risks from vaping.6

“In Australia, this represents preventing about half a million premature smoking-related deaths in long-term smokers” Professor Mendelsohn said.

“These calculations support the role of e-cigarettes in Australia as a valuable strategy to kick start the decline in smoking again. The potential benefits to public health are huge” he said. 

- ENDS -


For interviews and extra information contact

Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn
School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney
E: | M: 0415 976 783

Dr Alex Wodak AM
President, Australia Drug Law Reform
E:  | M: 0416 143 823


On behalf of the following signatories



Dr Shalini Arunogiri

Addiction Psychiatrist, Turning Point, Eastern Health, Melbourne


Professor Amanda Baker

Co-Director, NHMRC Centre of Research Excellence In Mental Health and Substance Use;  NHMRC Senior  Research Fellow, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle


Professor Billie Bonevski

National Health & Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Fellow, University of Newcastle, Newcastle


Associate Professor Yvonne Bonomo

Physician in Addiction Medicine & Adolescent Medicine; Director, Department of Addiction Medicine, St Vincent's Hospital, University of Melbourne, Melbourne


Professor Ron Borland

Nigel Gray Distinguished Fellow in Cancer Prevention, Cancer Council Victoria


Associate Professor Matthew Browne

Researcher, School of Health, Medical and Applied Sciences, CQUniversity, Australia


Dr Andrew Byrne

Addiction Medicine Specialist, Redfern, Sydney


Kate Carnell AO, BPharm

Australian Small Business & Family Enterprise Ombudsman; Harm Reduction Australia


Professor David Castle

Psychiatrist, Melbourne


Paul Camp

Secretary, The Australian Cardiovascular Health & Rehabilitation Association- Queensland (ACRA-Qld)


Dr Ian Chaussivert

Senior Staff Specialist in Addiction Medicine, Central Coast Local Health District; Conjoint Lecturer, University of Newcastle


Dr Karen Counter

Tobacco Treatment Specialist, General Practitioner, NSW


Professor Nick Crofts AM

Honorary Professorial Fellow, School of Population and Global Health, University of Melbourne


Dr Attila Danko

President, New Nicotine Alliance Australia; General Practitoner, Ballarat, Victoria


Professor Sinclair Davidson

Professor, Institutional Economics, RMIT University, Melbourne


Professor Ric Day AM

Professor of Clinical Pharmacology, St Vincent's Hospital Clinical School, Faculty of  Medicine, University of New South Wales


Dr Simon de Burgh

Addiction Physician, Royal North Shore Hospital, St Leonards


Associate Professor Luke Downey

Faculty of Health, Arts & Design, School of Health Sciences; Centre for Human Psychopharmacology;  Department of Psychological Sciences, Swinburne University, Melbourne


Dr Gavin Edema

Consultant Psychiatrist, St George Hospital, The Sydney Clinic, Sydney


Associate Professor Stuart Ferguson

Associate Professor, School of Medicine, University of Tasmania


Dr Matthew Frei

Addiction Medicine Specialist, Eastern Health, Victoria


Professor Charles Gilks  

Head of School, Queensland Professorial Chair of HIV and STIs; School of Public Health, The University of Queensland, Herston


Rohan Glasgow

Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre


Dr Robert Graham

Staff Specialist in Addiction Medicine, Blacktown and Mt Druitt Hospitals, Western Sydney NSW


Professor Paul Haber

Head, Discipline Addiction Medicine, University of Sydney


Professor Wayne Hall

Professor, Centre for Youth Substance Abuse Research
and Queensland Centre for Mental Health Research, School of Public Health, The University of Queensland; Professor, National Addiction Centre, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, Kings College London


Dr Richard Hallinan

Addiction Medicine Specialist, Redfern, Sydney; Staff Specialist, Drug Health Services, South Western Sydney Local Health District


Dr David Helliwell

Foundation Fellow, Australasian Chapter of Addiction Medicine, Fellow Royal Australasian College of Physicians


Dr Peter Holloway

General Practitioner, Sydney


Dr William Huang

Addiction Medicine Specialist ACT Health, Canberra


Dr David Jacka

Addiction Medicine Specialist and Addiction Medicine Head, Monash Health, Melbourne


Dr Marianne Jauncey

Medical Director, Sydney Medically Supervised Injecting Centre Sydney; Conjoint Senior Lecturer, National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, University of New South Wales; Clinical Senior Lecturer, University of Sydney


Associate Professor Michael Keane

Adjunct Associate Professor, Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne; Adjunct Lecturer in Public Health, Monash University, Melbourne


Professor Steve Kisely

School of Medicine, The University of Queensland; Professor, Departments of Psychiatry, Community Health & Epidemiology, Dalhousie University, Canada


Dr Joe Kosterich

General Practitioner, Perth, WA: Former Chair of AMA Council of General Practice Australia


Professor Emmanuel Kuntsche

Director, Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR),  La Trobe University, Melbourne


Dr Thao Lam

Staff Specialist, Gastroenterology/Hepatology and Addiction Medicine Western Sydney Local Health District, Sydney


Conjoint Professor Nicholas Lintzeris

Director, Drug and Alcohol Services, SESLHD; Discipline of Addiction Medicine, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sydney


Dr Martyn M Lloyd-Jones

Addiction Specialist, Fitzroy, Melbourne


Dr Michael Lowy

Men’s Health Physician; Visiting lecturer Universities of Sydney, NSW and Notre Dame and Family Planning NSW, Sydney


Professor Dan Lubman

Director, Turning Point; Professor of Addiction Studies & Services, Monash University, Melbourne


Dr Raj Maheshwari

Consultant Forensic Psychiatrist, Cumberland Hospital, Sydney


Professor Iain McGregor

Professor of Psychopharmacology; NHMRC Principal Research Fellow; Academic Director, Lambert Initiative for Cannabinoid Therapeutics


Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn

School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney; Tobacco Treatment Specialist


Dr Benny Monheit

Drug & Alcohol Specialist Physician, Alfred Hospital, Melbourne


The Hon Dr Brendan Nelson AO

Past President of the Australian Medical Association, 1993-1995


Dr Leon Nixon

Director, Involuntary Drug and Alcohol Treatment Unit, Bloomfield Hospital, Orange


Dr David Outridge

General Practitioner, Newcastle


Dr Peter Parry

Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist; Senior Lecturer, University of Queensland, Brisbane


Dr Allan Quigley

Addiction Medicine Consultant, Perth


Dr Muhammad Aziz Rahman

Senior Lecturer, Austin Clinical School of Nursing, La Trobe University, Melbourne


Professor Emeritus James G. Rankin

Honorary Professor, School of Medicine, University of Sydney; Emeritus Professor Dana Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto, Canada


Evert Rauwendaal

Counsellor - Alcohol and Drug Information Service, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney


Professor R Richmond

Professor, School of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney


Professor Robin Room

Professor, Centre for Alcohol Policy Research (CAPR),  La Trobe University


Professor John Saunders

Professor and Consultant Physician in Internal Medicine and Addiction Medicine; University of Queensland


Dr Vivek Sharma

Psychiatry Registrar, Justice Health and Forensic Mental Health Network, Sydney


Dr Catherine Silsbury

Staff Specialist Addiction Medicine, Westmead & Cumberland Hospitals, Western Sydney Local Health District; Fellow Australasian Chapter of Addiction Medicine, RACP


Associate Professor Dan Siskind

Clinical Academic Psychiatrist


Darren Smyth

President, Drug and Alcohol Nurses Australasia


Professor Con Stough

Swinburne Centre for Human Psychopharmacology, Swinburne University, Melbourne


Dr Tom Vandeleur

Consultant psychiatrist (addiction cert); Director of Medical Services, Macquarie Hospital, North Ryde, Sydney


Professor Ian W. Webster AO

Emeritus Professor of Public Health and Community Medicine, University of New South Wales, Sydney


Associate Professor Martin Weltman

Senior Staff Specialist Gastroenterologist, Nepean Hospital, Kingswood; Sydney Medical School, University of Sydney


Dr Hester Wilson

Chair RACGP Addiction Medicine SI Network; Conjoint Lecturer University of New South Wales; Staff Specialist Addiction SESLHD, Sydney


Dr Alex Wodak AM

Emeritus Consultant, Alcohol and Drug Service, St Vincent's Hospital, Sydney; President, Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation; Director, Australia21


Steve Woodward

Former Director, Action on Smoking and Health Australia


Dr Linda Worrall-Carter

Founder & CEO of Her Heart; Previously Professor of Cardiovascular Nursing, St Vincents Hospital, Australian Catholic University, Melbourne


Professor Nick Zwar

Dean of Medicine, Head, School of Medicine, University of Wollongong, Wollongong



1.  Banks E, Joshy G, Weber MF et al. Tobacco smoking and all-cause mortality in a large Australian cohort study: findings from a mature epidemic with current low smoking prevalence. BMC Med. 2015;13:38

2.  National Health and Medical Research Council. CEO Statement: Electronic Cigarettes (E-Cigarettes). 2017. Available at

3.  National Drug Strategy Household Survey detailed report 2013. Drug statistics series no. 28. Cat. no. PHE 183. Canberra: AIHW. Available at Accessed 1 October 2017

4.  National Drug Strategy Household Survey (NDSHS) 2016: detailed findings. Drug Statistics series no. 31. Cat. no. PHE 214. Canberra: AIHW. Available at Accessed 1 October 2017

5.  Zhu SH, Zhuang YL, Wong S, Cummins SE, Tedeschi GJ. E-cigarette use and associated changes in population smoking cessation: evidence from US current population surveys. BMJ. 2017;358:j3262

6.  Levy DT, Borland R, Lindblom EN et al. Potential deaths averted in USA by replacing cigarettes with e-cigarettes. Tobacco Control. 2017 Available at