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Smoking cessation is clearly the most effective strategy for smokers to reduce their risk of harm and disease and for many decades, the primary strategies for reducing the harm associated with cigarette smoking was focused on preventing smoking initiation and promoting smoking cessation. Successful public health strategies saw the daily smoking rate in Australia half between 1991 and 2016. However, since then Australia has been accused of falling behind the rest of the world and “resting on its laurels” over its poor results in the recent decline of cigarette smokers. Australia’s decline in annual smoking rates has almost stalled at 0.2 per cent between 2013-2016. The country lags behind Iceland, Norway, USA, the UK, Canada and New Zealand, which has applied a range of strategies to combat smoking including the legalisation of smoke-free products on the basis that it is a better alternative than combustible cigarettes.

Despite this, in Australia, tobacco is currently only available in its most dangerous form, when ‘prepared and packed for smoking’, that generates smoke when burned in a cigarette. According to the Cancer Council Australia smoking “claims the lives of 15,5001” Australians every year. Currently, close to 3 million Australians still smoke. These smokers’ lowest health risk option is to quit. However, the reality is that many will not. According to the data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare one third of smokers do not want to quit2.

Institute in May 2020 showed alarmingly very high rates of smoking continue in many Australian communities, with at least 1 in 5 and more adults smoking in over 200 communities3. There is a clear pattern to these smoking rates, with the lowest rates of smoking in many of Australia’s wealthiest suburbs, and the highest rates of smoking in communities with high rates of relative socio-economic disadvantage.

This fact underpins the need to develop alternative tobacco products for current adult smokers that can complement, not replace, the existing smoking prevention and cessation approaches in Australia, for those current adult smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke. Use of these alternative products is not without risk and because they deliver nicotine, they are addictive. These products are intended only for adult smokers who would otherwise not quit. They are not intended to be used by non-smokers, former smokers or youth.

In an ideal world, all smokers would quit tobacco and nicotine altogether. But we do not live in an ideal world. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there will still be 1.1 billion people who choose to smoke in 20251. In Australia, close to 3 million adult smokers continue to use nicotine in the most dangerous way possible – from combustible cigarettes. Science, innovation and technology have allowed for the development of alternative nicotine delivery products that do not involve combustion or smoke – products that can fully replace cigarettes. There’s no question that never starting smoking or quitting are the best options. But for those people who would otherwise continue to smoke, they deserve to have access to alternatives which are backed by solid science.