National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) Career Development Fellow, Dr Ryan Courtney from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) at UNSW Sydney has been awarded $2.7 million to compare the cost-effectiveness of vaporised nicotine products (VNPs) and varenicline, the most effective pharmaceutical benefits scheme (PBS)-listed single form pharmacotherapy for smoking cessation. 

Reducing smoking rates among low socioeconomic (low-SES) populations is a national health priority. 

“Low-SES communities have carried a heavy toll from the burden of disease attributable to tobacco smoking over many decades,” Dr Courtney says.

“This trial is an exciting opportunity to potentially expand the range of treatment options for those most in need. 

“Our previous work suggests that smokers from low-SES backgrounds are interested in VNPs to assist with quitting tobacco smoking.”

Despite increasing uptake, VNP’s continue to divide the international community. Their role in smoking cessation is still disputed with additional evidence required. 

This world-first trial will test the cost-effectiveness of VNPs and their potential value in achieving long-term tobacco smoking abstinence. 

“Our trial will provide much needed evidence on a treatment that has polarised the public health community and support evidence-informed decisions on effectiveness, safety and cost-effectiveness,” Dr Courtney says.

“Regulators and policy makers have called for more reliable and large-scale trials to gain a better understanding of the effectiveness of VNPs for smoking cessation.

“Findings from this trial have the potential to expand the current tobacco control treatment toolbox in Australia and provide much needed wider evidence for national and international health bodies. 

“VNPs may present a more cost-effective treatment option with significant savings for community and healthcare systems.” 

Dr Courtney is one of 33 recipients awarded funding through the NHMRC Clinical Trials and Cohort Studies Grant Scheme.