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Adult smokers in Australia may continue to be denied access to better alternatives to cigarettes following a decision by the Scheduling Committee of the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) not to support the sale of heated tobacco products in Australia.

Philip Morris Limited had made an application to the TGA based on extensive evidence which shows that scientifically substantiated heated tobacco products, while not risk-free, produce fewer and lower levels of toxic chemicals than cigarettes.

The committee’s decision of June 10 is at odds with extensive science available on several heated tobacco products and contradicts the growing number of public health experts and health authorities who have considered the robust science underpinning heated tobacco products, and who acknowledge that these products are a better alternative for adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke cigarettes.

There are still approximately 3 million smokers in Australia and the best thing they can do is quit cigarettes and nicotine altogether.

However, providing adult smokers in Australia with two options – to quit tobacco and nicotine altogether or continue smoking – has had very little, if any, impact on the smoking rate over the past 6 years.  It has, in fact, remained relatively flat at 13.8% since 20141 despite Australia having some of the world’s toughest tobacco control measures.

It’s time for Australian health authorities to consider the positive contribution to public health that science-based better alternatives could deliver when combined with regulations that prevent initiation and encourage cessation.

Regulators need to recognise that many adult smokers will continue to smoke cigarettes – one of the most harmful ways to consume nicotine – and carefully consider whether those people should then have the right to choose a better alternative.

If the interim decision is confirmed, Australia will continue to lag behind more than 50 other countries around the world that have made heated tobacco products available to adult smokers. It’s time authorities adopt a new approach to challenge outdated perspectives, stay up to date with the science and place adult smokers at the centre of tobacco control policy decisions.

While disappointed with the interim decision, Philip Morris will continue to address concerns raised by the Scheduling Committee in respect of our application and engage with other regulators as we call for law reform, backed by solid science.

We encourage all Australian adult smokers who wish to access heated tobacco products that more than 10 million adult smokers worldwide have switched to, as well as their supporters, to join the company in its calls for urgent reform of Australia’s tobacco laws.

Read more on the final decision on the application from August 2020.

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National Health Survey: First Results, 2017-18, Australian Bureau of Statistics