VicHealth has been engaging with members of the international tobacco control community to discuss the place of a harm reduction approach as part of the Australian tobacco endgame.
One of the strategic imperatives within the VicHealth 10-year Action Agenda for Health Promotion is to prevent tobacco use. Underpinning this work is VicHealth’s three year priority of more people living smoke-free and less harm among resistant smokers (those unwilling or unable to quit) and in 10 years, the goal of more Victorians tobacco-free.
To date, harm reduction approaches have not been widely used in Australia in relation to tobacco smoking. The emphasis has been on population and individual health strategies focussed on encouraging existing smokers to quit and preventing uptake among young people. These approaches have been highly effective and will continue to be the primary focus of investment for VicHealth to help reach the goal of more Victorians tobacco-free.
There are, however, a number of smokers in Victoria who have to date proven resistant to these measures. These smokers are more likely to be the most socioeconomically disadvantaged, the mentally ill and those otherwise excluded from conventional society. The emergence of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS), which includes electronic cigarettes, and the likely arrival of more effective nicotine delivery devices may provide additional harm reduction options. VicHealth is interested to facilitate exploration and contribute to the evidence-base of the potential role for tobacco harm reduction in the Victorian and Australian context.
VicHealth hosted an international Tobacco Harm Reduction Forum on 15 and 16 July 2014 to discuss the role, if any, of a harm reduction approach to tobacco control in Australia. Speakers from the Australian Medical Association-Victoria, Behavioural Insights Team (UK), Cancer Council Victoria, Curtin University, National Institute for Health Innovation, Quit Victoria, Therapeutic Goods Administration, University of Minnesota, University of Queensland, University of Sydney, Victorian Department of Health and the World Health Organisation contributed to the inclusive and wide-ranging discussion.