The Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) has thrown its support behind the Therapeutic Goods Administration’s decision to ban the importation of e-cigarettes into Australia.
The TGA has written to RACGP President Dr Nespolon advising him that the importation of e-cigarettes containing vaporiser nicotine and nicotine-containing refills will be prohibited unless on prescription from a doctor.
From 1 July only doctors or medical suppliers will be able to import these products via a permission granted by the Health Department. A prescription will only be provided to assist with smoking cessation where other measures, such as nicotine replacement therapy, have failed.
Individuals will no longer be able to import these products for their own personal use via an overseas supplier.
Dr Nespolon said it was a sound move by the Australian Government.
“The long-term health effects of using e-cigarettes or ‘vaping’ are unknown and public health experts have different views on whether they are effective as a smoking cessation tool.
“This is not a smoking cessation aid that should be embraced by all smokers in the community, it is a last resort prescription for people who have already tried evidence-based smoking cessation options and not succeeded. GPs will be able to prescribe e-cigarettes for patients who have tried to quit smoking but failed again and again.
“I urge all people who smoke to see their GP and explore the pharmacotherapy treatments available. This includes nicotine replacement therapy in the form of a patch, spray, gum or lozenge.
“There are also effective drugs available such as varenicline, which blocks the pleasure and reward response to smoking, as well as bupropion hydrochloride which reduces the urge to smoke and helps with nicotine withdrawal.”
The RACGP President also said that various claims and campaigns concerning the use of e-cigarettes needed to be fact-checked carefully.
“When we released our smoking cessation guidelines earlier this year it was unfortunate that our position on vaping was misrepresented by some pro-vaping organisations who claimed we were coming out ‘in support’ of vaping.
“That is not the case - as I said at the time repeatedly the RACGP does not endorse vaping. Our guideline's conditional recommendation notes that it's only a reasonable intervention in limited circumstances and that the long-term health effects are unknown. So we need to approach it with caution.”
Dr Nespolon warned against complacency when it came to tobacco use in Australia.
“Australia is a world leader in combating smoking, we have some of the lowest smoking rates across the globe.
“However, the battle is far from won and there has been a slowing in the rate of decline in recent years - our aim should be to decrease smoking rates year on year.”
The RACGP has been selected as one of the recipients of the 2020 World No Tobacco Day awards for their valuable work including the release of new Smoking Cessation Guidelines 2020. The guidelines provide up to date and evidence-based recommendations that can be used by a wide range of health professionals when helping patients to quit smoking.
The organisation also put forward a highly publicised submission to the TGA opposing the approval of “heat not burn” tobacco products in Australia as part of the RACGP’s high profile stance against Big Tobacco. The TGA has since made an interim decision retaining the ban on these products.
Note: The smoking cessation guideline’s conditional recommendation 15 concerning vaping can be found here on the RACGP website.