Challenging Tobacco Control Norms: Dr. Colin Mendelsohn's Revolutionary Approach to Nicotine

In our era of big data and hyperconnectivity, “we are drowning in information but starved for knowledge”, as John Naisbitt once said. Since the inception of the like and share buttons on social media over 10 years ago, the fragmentation of societal perspectives into echo chambers has intensified. To counterbalance this catalysation of our instinctively tribalistic tendencies to organise ourselves into groups with shared beliefs, we need rational thinkers who communicate clearly to challenge the status quo. In tobacco control, the decades-long status quo has been to view any nicotine use, regardless of delivery method, through a moralistic, binary lens. Out of this was borne the ‘quit or die’ approach traditionally employed by well-meaning health professionals in their interactions with smokers. However, as Dr Colin Mendelsohn explains in chapter 3 (‘Busting the Myths about Nicotine’) of his book, nicotine does not cause cancer, lung disease or heart disease. Backed by over 400 scientific publications, and over 30 years of experience as doctor with a specialist interest in smoking cessation, Dr Mendelsohn articulates compellingly how health professionals and smokers alike need to target the smoke from combustible tobacco as the noxious agent, not nicotine. By spearheading this revolution in thinking in Australia, Dr Mendelsohn represents one of a growing list of eminent global expert individuals and organisations who support tobacco harm reduction as a pragmatic, compassionate, and innovative solution to the world’s leading preventable killer: smoking, not nicotine. We spoke to Dr Delon Human, Physician and CEO of the Africa Harm Reduction Alliance, about Dr Mendelsohn’s book. He praised its primary aim – to help smokers, as well as its appeal to a diverse audience: “Public discourse about vaping and tobacco harm reduction has become increasingly polarised. In such a dogmatic environment, smokers are left wondering in the lurch about what the truth is. Dr Mendelsohn’s book cuts through the noise to provide a compelling and hysteria-busting case for nicotine vaping as a viable and life-saving alternative to combustible tobacco. His authority and clarity of communication is informed by a lifetime professional commitment to helping smokers quit or switch to safer alternatives, and a balanced consideration of scientific evidence; his book references over 400 scientific publications. Dr Mendelsohn’s rational, articulate and compassionate approach will appeal to smokers, their families, health professionals, and policymakers alike.”Dr Delon Human.

Not only does Dr Mendelsohn’s book provide a comprehensive and practical how-to guide for smokers considering vaping as a safer alternative to smoking, but it also delves into a deeper analysis into societal beliefs around vaping. In Part 3 (‘Controversies and Solutions’), Dr Mendelsohn dissects how we have reached a point in the debate where an appreciation of the scientific evidence supporting vaping is not enough to overcome the vehement backlash: “Much of the opposition is not about the evidence. It is driven more by hidden ideological, moral, political, and other agendas. [Part 3] explores how anti-vaping groups defend the indefensible and justify their position without the support of science”. For health professionals, this book’s status as ‘required reading’ is cemented by the fact that the vast majority of doctors in a recent study incorrectly believed that nicotine causes cardiovascular disease, COPD, and cancer. In contrast, evidence published this month from an Australian national survey found that using nicotine vapes to quit smoking increased the odds of success by 68%-124% compared to not using a vape. Dr Mendelsohn’s quest to share the healthy truth about vaping as a tool to help smokers quit is commendable; we highly recommend reading his book.

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