I am interested in finding out what I can about smokeless tobacco products (wet and dry snuff or snus) and nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) in Australia. The latter include things like nicotine patches, inhalents and gums.
I know a little about wet and dry snuff but very little about NRT in Australia or its regulation. I am very interested in the pricing and availability of NRT therapies. If you have any experience with using NRT I'd be interested in your views - either here or direct to my email on the side column.
On smokeless tobacco products such as snuff.
Despite their relative safety - they are much safer than smoking cigarettes - Australia banned smokeless chewing tobacco and snuff in 1991 and previously in 1989.
According to the ACCC:
‘On October 12, 1989 a ban on smokeless tobacco products was declared under the Trade Practices Act 1974. This ban was prompted by a World Health Organisation recommendation of a global and pre-emptive ban on all smokeless cigarettes on the basis of studies showing these products cause oral cancer and other severe oral conditions.’ The ban specifically refers to ‘Chewing tobacco and snuffs intended for oral use.’
More recently, in 2003, the ACCC still listed smokeless tobacco as a banned product on the grounds of links with oral cancer: (here, page 10). To cater for people already addicted to chewing tobacco, consumers are allowed to import quantities up to 1.5kg for personal use: See Food Standards Australia New Zealand 2004. The ACCC document recommended the banning of nicotine in foods since, as at 2004, there was no prohibition on importing foods containing nicotine, such as NicoPops - lollypops with a kick.
Somewhat inconsistently however nasal snuff is not banned In Australia but is regulated and must carry health warnings similar to cigarettes: See here page 33.
This failure to emphasise harm reduction is criticised in the RCACP Report (2005, pages 15, 62, 63). This is a comprehensive policy document which includes a recommendation to include harm reduction in the fight against smoking tobacco use.
Despite this those concerned with drug issues in Australia remain ambivalent about harm reduction efforts in relation to smoking. The Alcohol and Other Drugs Council of Australia Vice President Wayne Hall states in the recent edition of Substance:
‘What attitude, for example, should ADCA take if the tobacco industry begins to promote non-smoked forms of tobacco products that have reduced levels of carcinogens such as Swedish snus? Should ADCA campaign to have current bans on the sale of these products removed in the interests of reducing harm among current smokers? Or should we, as some tobacco control advocates argue, see this as another policy mirage (like ‘light’ cigarettes) and keep our gaze firmly fixed on the goal of zero tobacco use?’ (Hall (2007, p. 5)).
Banning Swedish snus but allowing the continued sale of smoking cigarettes provides a regulatory bias that delivers monopoly power to the lethal tobacco industry. Such regulations, globally, are directly responsible for millions of deaths given that there are much safe alternatives to smoking cigarettes.
My impression is that NRT products are expensive in Australia but that they are generally fairly readilky available. Beyond this I don't have a lot of information after 2002. My understanding is that to be effective NRTs need to provide a decent nicotine blast and that some don't. They also need to be cheap enough to permit long-term use.