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PH docs asked to consider FDA position on benefits of smoke-free products

April 30, 2024 People's Journal 278 views

A TOBACCO harm reduction (THR) advocate urged medical professionals in the Philippines to consider a recent statement by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Tobacco Products (FDA-CTP) on the potential health benefits of switching completely to lower-risk alternatives from cigarettes.

Dr. Lorenzo Mata Jr., a Filipino THR advocate and occupational medicine physician, called on fellow doctors to weigh the commentary co-authored by Dr. Brian King, director of the FDA-CTP, and published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature Medicine.

The commentary discusses considerations for healthcare providers in discussing the relative risks of different tobacco products with adult patients.

“We should look at scientific facts about THR and study how it can help millions of Filipinos quit smoking through less harmful nicotine alternatives,” said Dr. Mata, president of Quit for Good, a non-profit organization promoting harm reduction.

The commentary noted that “misperceptions among physicians and other healthcare professionals may lead to patient counseling that is not consistent with existing scientific evidence.” It said these misperceptions are associated with lower odds of smokers completely transitioning to e-cigarettes.

For adult smokers who have unsuccessfully tried proven cessation methods, medical providers may consider educating patients about the relative risks of tobacco products and the potential health benefits of switching completely to a lower-risk product, the commentary said.

It said that based on evidence, smoke-free products have lower health risks than cigarettes.

Consumer groups in the Philippines said this confirms long-held beliefs that smoke-free products such as vapes, heated tobacco, and nicotine pouches carry far less harm than traditional cigarettes.

“We all know that nicotine is not the problem, but the way it is delivered through combustion and smoke. With smoke-free products, smokers could significantly reduce their exposure to toxic chemicals,” Anton Israel, president of the Nicotine Consumers Union of the Philippines (NCUP), said in a statement.

Israel said these smoke-free alternatives do not generate smoke containing thousands of harmful and potentially harmful chemicals that cause smoking-related diseases.

The FDA-CTP commentary, titled “Nicotine e-cigarettes: Considerations for healthcare providers,” said that “non-combustible tobacco products, such as e-cigarettes, generally have lower health risks to the user than combusted tobacco products.”

It noted that the U.S. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (NASEM) found conclusive evidence that switching completely from cigarettes to e-cigarettes reduces a person’s exposure to many toxicants and carcinogens present in combusted tobacco cigarettes.

The other co-authors are Dr. Benjamin A. Toll of the Medical University of South Carolina’s Department of Public Health Sciences and Dr. Tracy T. Smith of the university’s Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences.

Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association (PECIA), said tobacco harm reduction (THR) products could help millions of Filipino adult smokers abandon cigarettes.

“Nearly a million former smokers in the Philippines have already switched away from smoking, and with the recent FDA-CTC commentary, we expect more smokers to understand the huge difference and transition to less harmful alternatives,” Dulay said.

“The Philippine Congress also acknowledges the role of these smoke-free products in providing Filipino smokers with alternatives when they enacted the Vape Law in 2022 to regulate vapes and novel tobacco products,” he said.

These smoke-free products emit aerosols or vapors that contain 95 percent less harmful chemicals than tobacco smoke produced by combustion. Aerosols are formed through heating at a much lower temperature than the burning process, resulting in a much smaller number of constituents compared to smoke.