April 21, 2015

What’s new in smoking cessation?

Plain packaging and e-cigarettes are the big topics in smoking cessation this edition.

In March, Ireland passed plain packaging legislation and similar legislation was passed by the UK House of Commons. Singapore has also announced a public consultation on plain packaging.1

The House of Lords passed it into law in the UK and Norway released a public consultation document proposing it. Plain packaging bills are also under discussion in Panama and South Africa. There have also been moves in France, New Zealand, Burkina Faso and Turkey.1

National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia (NHMRC) Position on e-cigarettes

There is increasing use of e-cigarettes in Australia and around the world. Together with this there is debate around the use of e-cigarettes as a method to help smokers quit, or as a ‘safe alternative’ to conventional cigarettes.

In late March, the NHMRC released a statement summarising the evidence on the safety, quality and efficacy of e-cigarettes. The position states that, “There is currently insufficient evidence to conclude whether e-cigarettes can benefit smokers in quitting, or about the extent of their potential harms.

Lung Foundation Australia’s position paper supports the approach that there is currently not enough evidence to suggest e-cigarettes are an effective smoking cessation tool compared with current recommended strategies including pharmacotherapy and clinical counselling.

While the number of toxins in an e-cigarette is fewer than those in traditional cigarettes, there are no long-term studies on the safety of e-cigarettes and concern has been expressed about the small particles inhaled when “vaping” and their health impact, particularly on youth.

Lung Foundation Australia and the NHMRC advise consumers to seek further information about e-cigarettes, such as the relevant State and Territory Health Department or their general practitioner.

Research has shown the most effective way to quit smoking is to get ongoing support from a health professional, using a combination of counselling and medication.

To read the full NHMRC position statement click here. 

Lung Foundation Australia’s position statement on e-cigarettes can be found here. 

Plain packaging for Cigarettes

Plain packaging, featuring graphic warnings of the health effects of tobacco is being increasingly adopted and supported worldwide, following Australia’s successful lead in December 2012.

Smoking rates have fallen in Australia since the introduction of plain packaging legislation, although tobacco companies have blamed the decline on tax hikes.2

Fifteen peer-reviewed articles in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) Tobacco Control special supplement outline the results of the first comprehensive evaluation of tobacco plain packaging legislation.3

The research found after the laws were implemented, there was a “statistically significant increase” in the number of people thinking about and making attempts to quit smoking.4

It found one in five of the smokers surveyed had attempted to quit in the months before the change. However, one year on from the plain packs, this had increased to more than one in four. This data was adjusted to account for the impact of anti-smoking advertising campaigns and price increases.4

For more information click here. 

Phasing out tobacco sales

Lung Foundation Australia supports the Public Health Amendment (Tobacco-free Generation) Bill 2014 designed to phase out the sale of tobacco products to persons born after the year 2000. It was tabled in the Tasmanian Parliament by Independent MP Ivan Dean was debated on 24 March 2015 in the Legislative Council.

For more information click here  or http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanres/article/PIIS2213-2600(15)00114-9/abstract

References:

[1] The Sydney Morning Herald, http://www.smh.com.au/world/as-europe-adopts-australias-plain-packaging-reforms-big-tobacco-fights-back-20150321-1m3bwk.html

[2] SBS, http://www.sbs.com.au/news/article/2015/03/19/who-praises-australia-introducing-plain-packaging

[3] The Department of Health, http://www.health.gov.au/internet/main/publishing.nsf/Content/tobacco-plain-packaging-evaluation

[4] ABC News, http://www.abc.net.au/news/2015-03-19/australias-plain-packaging-laws-are-a-success-studies-show/6331736