01:15pm Monday 23 October 2017

UQ e-cigarettes research misrepresented in media

A front page article in the Sun Herald newspaper on Sunday 15 November presented incorrect information about electronic nicotine delivery systems (e-cigarettes) research at The University of Queensland.

The article by Eamonn Duff claimed that a UQ Centre for Clinical Research clinical trial of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation had been funded by the previous Labor government as part of a plan to ban traditional cigarettes.

The journalist made this claim without checking its accuracy with the researchers, the University or the funding body.

The research study is in fact funded by a National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) project grant.

These prestigious competitive grants are awarded on the basis of a peer-review process by a panel of independent non-government experts.

The government had no input into the design of the trial and the decision to fund the study was based on the independent NHMRC panel’s scores.

The research is being conducted independently of government. The purpose of the trial is to test the safety and effectiveness of e-cigarettes for smoking cessation by comparing their effectiveness in helping smokers to quit with traditional cessation aids such as nicotine gum and inhalators.

To characterise this independent university research as part of a previous government’s “anti-smoking reform agenda” is simply incorrect.

The previous government had commissioned a Regulatory Impact Statement, unconnected to this university research, to consider whether further regulation, such as bans on the sale and promotion of electronic cigarettes were necessary.

This is a step that has been taken in several European countries and has been proposed by some Australian public health advocates because of concerns about the way that e-cigarettes may be used to undermine efforts to reduce tobacco smoking.

Two concerns have been expressed that:

• smokers will use e-cigarettes when they are unable to smoke cigarettes and will continue to smoke cigarettes at other times, rather than quitting.
• e-cigarettes will be used by the tobacco industry to increase smoking among young people by introducing them to a supposedly “safer” product and later encouraging them to smoke cigarettes.

In light of the growing interest among smokers in e-cigarettes it is important to undertake trials of their usefulness as smoking cessation aids.

Independent tests of the untested claims made about e-cigarettes will provide governments with the essential research evidence needed to make decisions about whether and under what conditions they should be available.

In the absence of such publicly-funded independent research, smokers will also not be able to make informed decisions about whether or not to use e-cigarettes.

Media: Kirsten O’Leary, Media and Communications, The University of Queensland Faculty of Health Sciences, 07 3346 4713, 0412307594 or k.oleary@uq.edu.au

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