Act Now on Cigarettes, Expert Says

An Australian adviser to the World Health Organisation has warned the ingredients of strawberry jam face tougher regulation than the deadly contents of cigarettes and has urged the Federal Government to act immediately.

A leading international expert on the health impacts of tobacco smoke, Dr Nigel Gray said he was disgusted that carcinogens in cigarettes remained unregulated, despite killing about 15,000 Australians each year.

“Controls apply to almost every marketed product from the amount of rat droppings permitted in wheat, to the amount of fat allowed in sausages and even the amount of mint allowed in nicotine replacement therapy,” Dr Gray said in an editorial published in the Medical Journal of Australia yesterday.

“It seems astonishing that the federal minister for drug and alcohol policy recently rejected claims that a new tobacco product (a ‘heatbar’, which heats but does not burn tobacco) should be subject to regulation and said there were no plans to even investigate the product.”

In June, The Age revealed that tobacco giant Philip Morris had secret plans to launch Australia’s first hand-held electronic smoking device. Dr Gray worked on a recent report by the WHO, which provided an international blueprint to regulate cigarette smoke and recommended the introduction of controls on two of the most dangerous carcinogens.

“The report found these compounds (nitrosamines) can be substantially removed from the cigarette because they occur during the process of curing tobacco,” Dr Gray said.

The US Government is considering the WHO recommendations and has a bill before Congress that would empower its Food and Drug Administration to regulate cigarette emissions.

kangeroo.GIFDr Gray said Australia should do the same.

But federal Minister for the Ageing Christopher Pyne said the Federal Government had banned all tobacco advertising and spent millions of dollars on education.

“For the Government to regulate the contents of cigarettes or to regulate products like the heatbar would undermine the message that all cigarettes are harmful and that quitting is the only option to avoid smoking-related illnesses. This is the approach we will continue to take,” Mr Pyne said.

Cancer Council spokeswoman Anita Tang said a failure to act was an implicit endorsement of cigarettes.

Philip Morris also supported the push for the contents of cigarettes to be regulated, despite opposition from other manufacturers.

Last night, Philip Morris spokeswoman Nerida White said: “We agree that the Australian Government should set in train a process of tobacco regulation, as is being discussed in the bill in the US Congress.”

Ms White said all cigarette manufacturers should be required to disclose the contents of their products.

Source: Cameron Houston, The Age (Australia)

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