Regulators urged to ease rules on smoke-free nicotine products

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    PUBLIC health advocates gathered in Melbourne, Australia recently to urge international health bodies and government regulators to ease the restrictive rules against non-combustible, smoke-free nicotine products that are regarded as safer alternatives to cigarette smoking.

    “We have the evidence that harm reduction products – snus, vapes and heat-not-burn tobacco are at least 90-percent safer,” Dr. Colin Mendelsohn, a tobacco treatment specialist and conjoint associate professor in the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales, said during the 9th International City Health Conference on Oct. 3-4.

    The Progressive Public Health Alliance, a group of health professionals, researchers and public health advocates, organized the conference that focused on urban health and harm reduction in all its forms.

    Harm reduction refers to an approach designed to reduce the negative impact associated with a practice such as cigarette smoking.  Such an approach is being opposed by people who feel they have an obligation to defend their moralistic views.

    Participants in the conference urged the public not to be swayed by the recent hysteria against vaping, saying non-combustible, smoke-free nicotine products from reputable suppliers are always safer than smoking.

    While there were recent reports of an outbreak of vaping-related illnesses in the US, the United Kingdom, which has the most advanced regulation on electronic-cigarettes, has not recorded any vaping-related deaths so far.

    Public Health England reported in 2015 that the use of electronic cigarettes was 95 percent less harmful than cigarette smoking.  The US outbreak is now being investigated for the possible use of illicit vaping liquids or THC containing liquids.

    Public health advocates in Melbourne said the US issue should not grab the attention away from the much greater harm caused by cigarette smoking.

    “Tobacco smoking kills 19,000 people in Australia every year,” Mendelsohn said.

    Globally, 20,000 smokers die of cancer and other related illnesses each day, translating into a death every 4.5 seconds.