Thursday, May 29, 2014

Nicotine/Tobacco Research and Policy Experts Endorse Tobacco Harm Reduction in Letter to World Health Organization



Fifty-three tobacco research and policy experts from 15 countries today endorsed many of the tobacco harm reduction principles that I have advocated for 20 years.  In a widely publicized (here) open letter (available here) to Dr. Margaret Chan, director of the World Health Organization, they declared:

Tobacco harm reduction is part of the solution, not part of the problem.  It could make a significant contribution to reducing the global burden of non-communicable diseases caused by smoking, and do so much faster than conventional strategies. If regulators treat low-risk nicotine products as traditional tobacco products and seek to reduce their use without recognising their potential as low-risk alternatives to smoking, they are improperly defining them as part of the problem.”

Just as I have done before (here), the experts warn that harsh regulation of e-cigarettes could have the unintended effect of protecting cigarettes:

On a precautionary basis, regulators should avoid support for measures that could have the perverse effect of prolonging cigarette consumption. Policies that are excessively restrictive or burdensome on lower risk products can have the unintended consequence of protecting cigarettes from competition from less hazardous alternatives, and cause harm as a result. Every policy related to low risk, non-combustible nicotine products should be assessed for this risk.”

The letter’s signatories also endorse a tax strategy that I have promoted for many years (here):

The tax regime for nicotine products should reflect risk and be organised to create incentives for users to switch from smoking to low risk harm reduction products. Excessive taxation of low risk products relative to combustible tobacco deters smokers from switching and will cause more smoking and harm than there otherwise would be.”

The letter points to the enormous public health gains that are possible with tobacco harm reduction:

“The potential for tobacco harm reduction products to reduce the burden of smoking related disease is very large, and these products could be among the most significant health innovations of the 21st Century – perhaps saving hundreds of millions of lives.”

It is encouraging to see such widespread international support for my long-held positions.

2 comments:

jredheadgirl said...

"It is encouraging to see such widespread international support for my long-held positions."

Indeed it is. Thank you for all of your hard work and for your willingness to to speak up for the truth, even in the face of what has always been an enormous opposition.

It takes a lot or courage to be amongst the first to speak out on an issue that often carries with it many (possible) political and financial consequences.

Maybe this is a sign that all of your hard work is about to pay off, for now there are at least 53 other experts in your field who appear to have come to the same conclusion on the importance of THR.

Saving millions of lives is no joke. This is a big deal for sure. It is such a big deal that I believe that THR may very well be one of the most important developments of the 21st century.

However, I would imagine that the biggest obstacle to THR (currently) is the taxman. ...How do we deal with that issue? THR tends to get in the way of excessive (and regressive) taxation.

Lori Trueblood said...

I truly pray that the FDA does take in to consideration these studies that have been done on ecigs. What I am worried about it, too many lobbyists AND the actual big tobacco companies are trying to keep ecigs off the market as they are now for they aren't making their money off them.

What can we do?