Wednesday, July 19, 2017

United Kingdom Doubles Down on Support for Tobacco Harm Reduction

The United Kingdom Department of Health’s new position statement (here), “Towards a Smokefree Generation,” is, as Clive Bates wrote (here), “probably the first significant government policy paper anywhere that recognises and pursues the opportunities of tobacco harm reduction, rather than defining these technologies as a threat to be suppressed.  For that, the Department of Health and its allies deserve considerable credit.”


British health authorities have been telling smokers the truth about vaping since 2011 (as I have noted here, here, here and here), and British smokers have listened – the UK’s vaping population has ballooned to 2.9 million (here), while smoking has significantly declined.  In fact, a Public Health England official recently reported (here) that the UK smoking rate is now the second lowest in the European Union, after SWEDEN!

Meanwhile, the U.S. persists in advocating for a “tobacco-free society” and a “tobacco endgame,” demonizing smoke-free products with untruths and giving continuing life to urban anti-vaping myths.  The UK paper underscores this stark contrast.

“Towards a Smokefree Generation” sets forth the facts about e-cigarettes’ relative safety:

“… the evidence is increasingly clear that e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful to health than smoking tobacco.”

The UK Department of Health promises to help smokers make the switch:

“The government will seek to support consumers in stopping smoking and adopting the use of less harmful nicotine products. Public Health England has produced guidance for employers and organisations looking to introduce policies around e-cigarettes and vaping in public and recommend such policies to be evidence-based.”

The paper dismisses the unfounded claim that second-hand vapor is a health threat:

“Public Health England recommends that e-cigarette use is not covered by smokefree legislation and should not routinely be included in the requirements of an organisation’s smokefree policy.”

Additionally, the document invites the introduction of new tobacco harm reduction products, an apparent reference to products like Philip Morris International’s heat-not-burn iQOS:

“… there has been the development and very recent introduction of novel tobacco products that claim to reduce the harm of smoking. We welcome innovation that will reduce the harms caused by smoking and will evaluate whether products such as novel tobacco products have a role to play in reducing the risk of harm to smokers.”

Concluding, the UK pledges:

“Public Health England will continue to provide smokers and the public with clear, evidence based and accurate information on the relative harm of nicotine, e-cigarettes, other nicotine delivery systems and smoked tobacco, to enable informed decision-making.”

American health authorities, are you listening?

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