Tobacco control advocates have cautiously welcomed the inception of a nicotine free cigarette in the United States, but say it highlights the inconsistent way in which we treat tobacco products.
Director the VicHealth Centre for Tobacco Control, Dr Ron Borland and the Executive Director of Quit Victoria, Mr Todd Harper said if nicotine was removed, cigarettes were unlikely to be addictive and smokers would be unlikely to use them.
The nicotine in tobacco is the main chemical that makes smoking addictive.
'This means it is in effect a product designed to help smokers quit,' Dr Borland said.
'We suspect the reason it is being promoted as a cigarette, not a cessation aid is that in the USA, as in Australia, cessation aids are subject to quite rigorous testing, while tobacco products, which kill 50 Australians every day, face none,' he said.
Because this product contains lots of cancer-causing chemicals, it would never be allowed on the market as a cessation aid under current regulations.
Mr Harper said it said it highlighted the need for comprehensive regulation of the tobacco industry in Australia.
Such regulation needs to be designed to advance public health, something that is almost non-existent for tobacco products.
'It is ironical, it should be easier to get cessation aids on the market than new varieties of cigarettes,' he said.
'Regulation of tobacco products should cover the use of additives and the marketing claims of the tobacco industry.'
For example, the industry has been irresponsible in its marketing of 'light,' 'ultra light' and 'mild' despite research highlighting they are not an accurate description of the amount of nicotine or tar inhaled by smokers.
'There is no such thing as a safe cigarette - any act of burning plant materials creates carcinogens and inhaling the smoke, involves risk, and when you do this for many years, permanent harm is almost inevitable.'
Dr Borland said from what we know at present, there was no reason to be overly concerned about nicotine-free cigarettes, and some reasons for cautiously welcoming them.
However he said doubted the product would establish a viable market share in Australia unless it was used as a quitting aid.
'It may have some short term novelty value, but is unlikely to be come a major seller. Perhaps, unless the government insisted that all cigarettes be made with the same technology,' Dr Borland said.
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