Misleading the public about heat-not-burn products will cost Australian lives

It is a sad day when tobacco companies provide high quality scientific evidence and medical experts misinform the public.

The presidents of the AMA and RACGP have rejected the science which has found that heat-not-burn products are a far safer alternative to combustible cigarettes. (1)

According to Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn from the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA), “health leaders are entitled to their own opinions, but public health policy should be based on the best available evidence.”

“There is now abundant, independent research that heat-not-burn products release far fewer toxic chemicals than combustible cigarettes and at much lower doses,” he said. (2)

“Heat-not-burn products heat tobacco sticks without combustion or smoke and release a vapour. There is no tar or carbon monoxide and most of the other toxic chemicals from burning tobacco leaf are absent.”

Last year, the US FDA authorised Philip Morris International’s heat-not-burn product as “appropriate for the protection of the public health”. (3)

A review by the German Federal Institute of Risk Assessment, a branch of the Federal Ministry for Food and Agriculture, concluded “Our study confirms that levels of major carcinogens are markedly reduced in the emissions of the analysed HNB product in relation to the conventional tobacco cigarettes”

“It is always best for smokers to quit all tobacco and nicotine products if possible, but many are not able to do so. Heat-not-burn products are not risk-free but they are a far safer alternative for adult smokers who cannot quit and would otherwise continue to smoke” Dr Mendelsohn said.

“Heat-not-burn products are available in over 50 countries and are increasingly popular. In the three years after they were introduced into Japan, cigarette sales fell by an unprecedented 31%.”

“This issue is not about the devious plans of Big Tobacco. It is about public health and saving the lives of Australian smokers. It is better for Big Tobacco to switch to much safer products than to continue to manufacture combustible cigarettes which kill up to two out of three long term users.”

ATHRA encourages the Therapeutic Goods Administration to make heat-not-burn products available for Australian smokers.

“It is scientifically and ethically wrong to allow the sale of lethal cigarettes while banning a far less risky alternative which could save many Australian lives.”

“Smoking rates in Australia have stalled over the last 6 years. New and effective strategies are needed to supplement existing tobacco control approaches,” Dr Mendelsohn said.


1) Doctors hit back at 'big tobacco' bid to sell vaping products in Australia. Sydney Morning Herald, 16 February 2020

2) ATHRA’s submission to the TGA and evidence review. 30 January 2020

3) FDA decision. 30 April 2019

4) Mallock N. Levels of selected analytes in the emissions of heat not burn tobacco products. Arch Toxicol 2018


Conjoint Associate Professor Colin Mendelsohn
M: 0415 976 783 | E: colin@athra.org.au

What is ATHRA?

Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) is a registered health promotion charity established to reduce the harm from tobacco smoking in Australia. ATHRA aims to raise awareness of less harmful alternatives for adult smokers who are otherwise unable to quit. ATHRA’s broader goal is to encourage the complete cessation of tobacco smoking in Australia. For more information, visit www.athra.org.au.

ATHRA is funded by public donations. We do not accept donations from tobacco companies or their subsidiaries or from the vape industry. To establish ATHRA as a registered charity in 2017 we accepted some financial support from the small business vape retail sector. ATHRA has not accepted vape industry funding since March 2019.

None of the directors has ever had any financial or commercial relationship with any electronic cigarette or tobacco company.

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