The Australian Senate Economic References Committee has released its interim report concerning the sale and use of tobacco, tobacco products, nicotine products and e-cigarettes (term of reference a). It has found that nicotine should be made available by medical prescription.

This is not good news for smokers in Australia. If these recommendations are followed through with regulation only tobacco companies or pharmaceutical companies would be able to meet the costs incurred by the approval process with the Therapeutic Goods Administration.

The full report can be viewed immediately by downloading the PDF Document on the Government's web site: Interim report: the sale and use of tobacco, tobacco products, nicotine products and e-cigarettes

These are the final recommendations of the Committee:

Committee view

2.38 The question of how best to approach the regulation of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) is a complex one. There are undoubtedly positive benefits to be gained from the broader availability of these devices, particularly in relation to their use as a smoking cessation aid. However, the lack of data on the long-term health effects of ENDS use, as well as concerns about other possible consequences arising from the normalisation of these products highlighted by the WHO and others, mean that a degree of caution is still warranted.

2.39 The committee heard compelling first-hand evidence from individuals who had managed to quit smoking through the use of ENDS devices. It seems clear that for this cohort, the health risks associated with using ENDS devices are significantly lower than continuing to smoke tobacco cigarettes. As such, the committee has no in-principle concerns with ENDS products being made available in Australia for use as a smoking cessation aid, in the same way that other medical quitting aids are available. Ensuring that liquid nicotine and the ENDS devices themselves are available on a prescription-only basis could provide a measure of control over how these products are being used in the community.

2.40 This in-principle support is subject to the caveat that, unlike proven anti-smoking aids like nicotine patches, which have been rigorously assessed by Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) before being approved for use here, no similar assessment of e-cigarettes has been undertaken. The committee notes that any company that wishes to legally market e-cigarettes as an anti-smoking aid in Australia needs to follow the standard process and apply to the TGA with evidence of the safety and efficacy of their product to allow the TGA to consider the product. To date, no company has been prepared to take this step.

2.41 Given that some comparable international jurisdictions have taken a considerably more liberal approach to this issue, the Australian Government should continue to monitor the emerging international evidence around the safety, long-term health effects and efficacy of ENDS in order to appropriately adjust Australia's regulatory response in the future.