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Quit Victoria welcomes leading EU health agency’s sensible, balanced stance on e-cigarettes

Posted 31 Aug, 2018

Quit Victoria has today welcomed the publication of an updated policy paper from the European Public Health Association (EUPHA), the umbrella organisation for public health associations and institutes in Europe, which continues to “strongly support” a precautionary approach to the use of e-cigarettes.

Quit Victoria Director Dr Sarah White said it’s positive to see yet another highly respected health group endorsing Australia’s precautionary principle on e-cigarettes.

“There’s simply not enough evidence on the long-term health impacts of e-cigarettes to be able to recommend them as an alternative to smoking,” Dr White said.

“While e-cigarettes are likely to be less dangerous than tobacco cigarettes, they are not harmless. The EUPHA statement reiterates the position held by the World Health Organization and many others; it is not possible at this point to make any claims about the relative safety of e-cigarettes compared to traditional cigarettes.”

The National Health and Medical Research Council, Australian Medical Association, Cancer Council Australia and Heart Foundation have all called for a precautionary approach to be continued in Australia. 

The groups’ joint position is that any e-cigarette should be approved by Australia’s regulatory authority, the Therapeutic Goods Administration, if there is sufficient evidence for e-cigarettes to be approved as a therapeutic product, whether for cessation or for harm reduction.

This position was reinforced by a CSIRO report published this month, which concluded that the “evidence available suggests that regular use of e-cigarettes is likely to have adverse health consequences” and that “on present evidence, it is not possible to determine whether less restrictive access to e-cigarettes would reduce rates of smoking in Australia.” 

E-cigarettes deliver nicotine and/or other chemicals to the user via an aerosol vapour in devices designed to simulate the sensation and/or act of smoking tobacco cigarettes.

E-cigarettes containing nicotine are not approved therapeutic goods in Australia.  It is generally unlawful to sell, use and possess nicotine e-cigarettes in Australia. Limited exemptions may exist, however these are contingent on meeting strict requirements and the relevant drugs and poisons laws in each state and territory.

In 2016, the WHO noted that, while e-cigarettes might be less harmful than conventional cigarettes, e-cigarettes still pose important risks to health, and that electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) regulation should:

• Deter e-cigarette promotion to non-smokers and young people;

• Minimise potential health risks to e-cigarette users and nonusers;

• Prohibit unproven health claims about e-cigarettes;

• Prevent/Bar/Ban involvement of the tobacco industry in the marketing and promoting of e-cigarettes.

The joint Cancer Council Australia and Heart Foundation position statement on e-cigarettes is available here.

Quit Victoria is a partnership between VicHealth, the State Government of Victoria, Cancer Council Victoria and the Heart Foundation. For more information, visit: 

Media release

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