Renowned smoking cessation expert Colin Mendelsohn, has been honoured with the prestigious Michael Russell Award for 2024, recognizing his significant and innovative contributions to the science and understanding of safer nicotine products and tobacco harm reduction (THR).

This accolade is presented annually at the Global Forum on Nicotine in memory of Professor Michael Russell, a pioneer in the study of tobacco dependence and the development of treatments to aid smokers in quitting. Professor Russell’s ground breaking work was among the first which identified that while nicotine itself carries minimal health risks, it is the primary reason for smoking. This was encapsulated in his famous quote, “people smoke for nicotine, but they die from the tar.”

On his part, Dr. Mendelsohn has dedicated over four decades to the field of smoking cessation and, more recently, THR, working as a clinician, academic, and researcher. For 27 years, he served as a General Practitioner in Sydney, focusing on smoking cessation, and was also an integral member of the committee responsible for developing the Australian Royal Australian College of General Practitioners (RACGP) national smoking cessation guidelines. Moreover, he is the Founding Chairman of the Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, a charity focused on increasing awareness of safer nicotine products.

In his academic role, Mendelsohn served as a Conjoint Associate Professor at the School of Public Health and Community Medicine at the University of New South Wales in Sydney. Beyond his clinical and academic pursuits, Colin has conducted hundreds of workshops and lectures across Australia and New Zealand. These sessions have been instrumental in educating students, medical practitioners, and other health professionals on effective smoking cessation techniques. He also played a pivotal role in the development and teaching of “Smokescreen for the 1990s,” a program created at the University of New South Wales designed to assist general practitioners in helping their patients quit smoking.

How did a life long smoking cessation expert become a vaping advocate?

In 2014, Mendelsohn’s interest in vaping was piqued by patient reports of its success in quitting smoking, and a 2015 trip to London, where he met with experts like Peter Hajek, Clive Bates, and Martin Dockrell, solidified his belief in vaping’s potential to aid smokers. Upon returning to Australia, he authored an article in the Medical Journal of Australia titled “Electronic cigarettes: what can we learn from the UK experience?”

Since then, Mendelsohn’s advocacy work has involved engaging with members of parliament, producing a quarterly newsletter for MPs, writing submissions, sharing scientific evidence with the vaping community, public education through various media, and more. He has also been an investigator in numerous studies on smoking and vaping.

Mendelsohn has faced significant vilification

Meanwhile, during the Michael Russell Award award ceremony at GFN, Professor Gerry Stimpson delivered a speech highlighting the importance of the award in recognizing individuals who have made exceptional contributions to advancing THR. He emphasized that despite the challenges and resistance faced in the field, it is crucial to acknowledge and celebrate the efforts of those who push for progress, and Dr. Mendelsohn is a prominent figure among such individuals.

The Australian tobacco treatment expert has faced significant opposition from government departments, health charities, and medical and public health organizations in Australia. Despite this, Mendelsohn has remained steadfast in his mission. In fact, only last week, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) released a statement underlining that the current affairs program 7NEWS Spotlight violated the Commercial TV Code of Practice by inaccurately depicting Mendelsohn as a representative of Big Tobacco. This breach pertained to the episode titled “Killers in the Mist,” which aired nationally by Channel Seven Sydney Pty Limited on May 28, 2023.

The ACMA’s investigation and resulting report, highlighted the lack of sufficient evidence to support this portrayal. The ACMA released a media statement indicating that Seven has agreed to remove the misleading promotions from its website and social media channels and has committed not to rebroadcast them.

“I find it paradoxical that I am a pariah in Australia because I don’t follow the mainstream narrative, but what I say and do are recognised overseas! Australia will catch up eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later.”Dr. Colin Mendelsohn

The expert has made his book “Stop Smoking, Start Vaping,” available to the public free of charge

Mendelsohn’s efforts to promote the benefits of vaping and dispel misconceptions have been disseminated through various channels, including articles, meetings with parliamentarians, newsletters, submissions to inquiries, media briefings, and webinars. His book, “Stop Smoking, Start Vaping,” encapsulates his message and advocacy for the health benefits of vaping, and the Australian THR expert has made it available to the public for free instead of seeking to capitalize on it.

On presenting the award, Professor Stimpson acknowledged the significant challenges Mendelsohn has faced, including personal attacks, censorship attempts, rejection by medical journals, and complaints to professional bodies. Despite these obstacles, added Stimpson, Dr. Mendelsohn has continued to advocate for harm reduction, contributing significantly to the eventual acceptance of vaping as a viable smoking cessation tool in Australia.

Stimpson also praised Mendelsohn for his long-standing commitment to THR, tracing his journey from a career in general practice with a focus on smoking cessation to becoming a prominent advocate for vaping as a safer alternative. Mendelsohn’s expertise and dedication have been instrumental in educating general practitioners, developing national smoking cessation guidelines, and ultimately making the world a better place by promoting safer alternatives for smokers and challenging the status quo in public health policies. This unwavering commitment and tireless advocacy have made a substantial impact on THR, earning him the well-deserved 2024 Michael Russell Award.

Awarded for his work in Europe, while attacked for it in Australia

Last year, Dr. Mendelsohn was honoured with the Most Supportive Public Health Professional/Researcher Award at the UKVIA 2023 Industry Recognition Awards. The award acknowledged his substantial contributions to promoting vaping within the realm of public health. At the time, Mendelsohn discussed the irony of being awarded for his work in the UK, while attacked for it in his home country. “Its very frustrating that vape advocacy is recognised in the UK but largely ignored or attacked in Australia, especially by the mainstream media and the public health orthodoxy.. Its a much needed validation in a very hostile environment!”

Sadly, nothing much has changed. “I find it paradoxical that I am a pariah in Australia because I don’t follow the mainstream narrative, but what I say and do are recognised overseas! Australia will catch up eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later,” Mendelsohn told Vaping Post on discussing his latest accolade.

Australian Experts Send Comprehensive Review on Vaping to Local Authorities

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1 month ago

An absolute champion thank you Dr Colin