WA health experts disturbed by Philip Morris policy interference

Posted 27 Feb 2019.

WA's leading health agencies are appalled tobacco giant Philip Morris Limited will this morning testify before the WA Parliament's Select Committee on Personal Choice and Community Safety that is investigating whether WA should relax its laws on e-cigarettes and other similar products.

The Australian Medical Association (WA), Cancer Council WA and the Australian Council on Smoking and Health have joined forces to call out the clear conflict of interest of the multinational participating in an Inquiry that will have a public health outcome.

"The medical community has a number of serious concerns about e-cigarettes. One is over the effectiveness of e-cigarettes to help people quit, when we know many unfortunately stay addicted to nicotine and end up using both e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes," AMA (WA) President Dr Omar Khorshid said.

"We also have massive concerns around the safety of e-cigarettes -although there may be less chemicals, as the industry continually claims, you're still breathing dangerous chemicals into your lungs that are designed for air, and nothing else but air.

"If there is evidence that e-cigarettes can help people give up smoking and they are safe to use, this evidence should be presented to Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration which ensures all medicines available in Australia are effective and safe.

"The responsibility for this rests with the companies promoting these products, and I would question why, with all their resources, they have not done this yet."

In the US and Canada, where e-cigarettes are freely available, health authorities have measured an epidemic increase in the use of e-cigarettes by teens.

"It is extremely disturbing that in the USA, where they have opened the floodgates to these products, they've seen a 78 per cent surge in teen vaping in just one year," Cancer Council WA Policy and Strategy Manager Kelly Kennington said.

"The United States Surgeon General and head of the US Food and Drug Administration have labelled this an "epidemic", and the country is now scrambling to contain a horse that has well and truly bolted.

"We have worked incredibly hard to get teen smoking rates below five per cent in Australia. Following the US's mistake would see this figure sky rocket very quickly," she said.

Australian Council on Smoking and Health Director Maurice Swanson says the tobacco industry cannot be trusted.

"Philip Morris is a big player in an industry responsible for the death of seven million people each year, with a 70 year history of lies and deceit, and they have no place participating in decisions that involve public health" Mr Swanson said.

"In 1994, the CEOS of the major tobacco companies, including Philip Morris, testified before the US Congress saying that smoking is not addictive, when secret internal documents reveal they knew they were lying under oath.

"Under orders from a US Federal court, big tobacco had to issue a corrective statement to the American public in 2017 confessing that they deliberately manipulate cigarette design to ensure optimum nicotine delivery, a sickening admission of how they hook smokers for life.

"They'd like the public to think they care about so-called harm reduction while they continue to maximise harm through their core business of selling cigarettes. They cannot and should not be trusted".

Philip Morris's appearance at the Select Committee follows an appearance by British American Tobacco on Friday.

Media contact: Niki Comparti, Cancer Council WA, 92124324


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