Monday, September 12, 2011

Medsafe in New Zealand apparently banned cigarettes

According to a recent news story by 3 News in New Zealand, "Medsafe has ruled that nicotine for inhalation is a medicine and insists that more research needs to be done before they can be sold in New Zealand." Based on this criteria, cigarettes - which deliver nicotine (along with 4,000+ other chemicals) for inhalation - are a medicine and are banned for sale.

Curiously, this is not actually the case. While cigarettes, which deliver nicotine for inhalation and are clearly hazardous to public health, remain legal to sell, e-cigarettes containing just nicotine and no toxic levels of any chemicals are banned for sale there.

"It's a start but there's a way to go before, really, there's going to be enough information for us to know about how safe these products are and how effective they are," said Dr. Stewart Jessamine about e-cigarettes.

Dr. Stewart seems to have forgotten that smoking "is the leading cause of preventable death in New Zealand, accounting for around 4300 to 4600 deaths per year." These 4600 smokers obviously could not or would not quit using Medsafe-approved "nicotine medicine" products and will continue to smoke, so why is Medsafe not fast-tracking the research and approval of a product which contains just 3 low-risk main ingredients: nicotine, propylene glycol and food flavoring? A product which has been on the market - world-wide - for several years without any reported serious adverse affects or deaths? How "safe and effective" do they need to be proven to try to prevent those 4300 to 4600 annual smoking-related deaths? How long is "a way to go" to get the information they need? One year? Two years? Or rather just 4600 more deaths? Just 9200 more deaths?

The good news from the article is the study being done by Dr. Chris Bullen at Auckland University, which will hopefully contribute to the reversal of not only Medsafe's e-cigarette policy, but other irresponsible e-cigarette sale bans currently in place around the world.

“We are going to recruit 650 people in New Zealand for this trial, so we think at the end of this study, the evidence will suggest one way or the other, do they help people quit smoking,” said Bullen.

The news piece also included little-publicized information about New Zealand anti-smoking campaigner Dr. Murray Laugesen, who has completed his own tests on e-cigarettes and is convinced that they cause less harm than traditional cigarettes.

"All around the emmissions score for e-cigarettes is about less than 1% of what it is ordinary cigarette," Laugesen said.

Hundreds of thousands of e-cigarette users are reporting success switching from using hazardous traditional cigarettes to e-cigarettes without serious adverse events. Even if they only worked for half of New Zealand's smokers or had only 50% of the health risks of smoking, that could mean 2300 prevented smoking-related deaths a year or more. E-cigarettes can't possibly be any less effective than Chantix (Champix,) with a failure rate of 86% after 12 months nor more dangerous, with hundreds of Chantix-related suicides, murders and heart attacks reported; in the nearly identical time period e-cigarettes have also been on the market with no reports of serious adverse events. In spite of the increasingly obvious unknowns of Chantix, Medsafe continues to endorse its use, while banning another product which has shown no evidence of safety issues.

Luckily, in the U.S., the FDA was stopped short (by court order) of being able to follow in Medsafe's footsteps and treat e-cigarettes as a nicotine medicine, rather than what they really are - a much, much safer alternative to smoking for people who cannot or will not quit using "nicotine as medicine." As a result (and in spite of numerous ANTZ and FDA scare tactics) hundreds of thousands of U.S. smokers have access to a much safer product and are now smoke-free. CASAA is working to keep it that way.