Visiting expert encourages Australian smokers to switch to vaping
10 November 2017
Focus on harm reduction for smokers says e-cigarette expert
The co-author of a major international review into e-cigarettes is set to tell an audience of Australian healthcare professionals that encouraging smokers to switch to vaping has great potential to improve their health.
“The best thing smokers can do to improve their health is to quit smoking,” says Hayden McRobbie, Professor of Public Health Interventions at Queen Mary University of London, UK. “For those smokers who won’t or can’t quit, the next best thing would be to switch to vaping.”
Professor McRobbie is a co-author of the influential Cochrane Review into e-cigarettes which concluded that e-cigarettes can help people to quit smoking but conceded the evidence is weak due to limited data.
He has also worked with the New Zealand Ministry of Health which earlier this year published a position statement on e-cigarettes. The Ministry of Health believes e-cigarettes have the potential to make a contribution to New Zealand’s Smokefree 2025 goal and could disrupt the significant inequities caused by smoking.
New Zealand is set to legalise the sale of nicotine-containing e-cigarettes with appropriate controls and regulate them as consumer products from mid-2018.
All of this is in stark contrast to the strict prohibitionist position taken by most Australian health groups in relation to e-cigarettes.
“I think Australia is missing a huge public health opportunity in its opposition to e-cigarettes,” said Professor McRobbie. “While the long-term risks are not entirely clear, there is broad consensus now that they are much less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. And unlike second hand smoke there are no identified health risks to by-standers.”
He is in Australia as an invited speaker at the Australian Professional Society on Alcohol and other Drugs conference in Melbourne on Monday 13 November, presenting on “Reducing the harm from combustible tobacco use: switching from smoking to vaping”.
According to Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn from the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, ‘it good to see New Zealand following the scientific evidence and the lead of the UK, where e-cigarettes have now helped over two million smokers quit. The sooner these products are legalised in Australia, the more lives will be saved”.
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