More than 50 specialists in public health policy and nicotine science have signed an open letter and sent to Dr. Margaret Chan, the director general of World Health Organization in Geneva. This is the letter that asked WHO to resist its desire to treat electronic cigarettes as tobacco. This was the gist of the letter’s content; but reading it more carefully, the letter actually contains suggested principle on Tobacco Harm Reduction approach by the letter signatories.
Tobacco Harm Reduction
The open letter said that the critical strategy THR, seems to be overlooked and purposefully treated insignificant in the preparations for the FCTC Conference on Parties-6 that will be held later this year. THR refers to the idea that the current 1.3 billion smokers could suffer from much less harm if they consume non-combustible and low-risk form of tobacco.
The letter also mentioned that people smoke for nicotine, but they die from the smoke. There are now rapid advancements in the development of low risk, nicotine based cigarette substitutes like electronic cigarettes. If taken together, the THR products could significantly play a role in meeting the objectives of 2025 UN Non-Communicable disease by decreasing cigarette consumption and smoking prevalence. It is ultimately best that smokers drop their habit and stop their nicotine dependence, but this is something that could be very difficult to many people. These people will continue smoking if a better alternative is not available for them to use.
THR Is Part Of Solution
Tobacco Harm Reduction is not a part of the issue. It could significantly and quickly contribute to the reduction of non-communicable diseases that smoking could cause. If regulators treat these THR products as tobacco, they improperly define the products as the problem or part of it.
Evidence-Based THR Policies
Policies must be based on evidences and must be proportionate to the risks. Significant risk reduction must be given more weight when smokers switch to low risk products. Considerable health opportunities must be exploited for balanced and proportionate regulation. FCTC architecture is not suited for this.
Avoiding Perverse Effects
Regulators must avoid measures that have possible perverse effects of prolonged cigarette use. Excessively restrictive policies on low risk products could have unintended consequence of protecting cigarettes against the competition with less hazardous substitutes.
Reduction of Disease Not Nicotine Use
Tobacco Consumption Reduction Indicators and Targets must be aligned with the ultimate goal of premature deaths and diseases instead of nicotine use. It should primarily be about smoking reduction.
Consistent With Good Policy
THR is consistent with good policies and practices on public health. It will be unethical as well as harmful to obstruct the option of switching to THR products.
Ecig Ad Ban Is Counterproductive
Ecigarette and other low risk product advertising ban is counterproductive. Tobacco advertising ban rests on the fact that smoking harms must be prevented. But this does not apply to electronic cigarettes that are more likely to reduce smoking harms. Controls on advertising to young people is acceptable, but a total ban is unreasonable.
No Second Hand Risks
It is not appropriate for legislations applied to smoking on the reduction of secondhand exposure to also be applied to vapor products because they have no secondhand vapors. It is not supported by evidence that the vapors emitted by ecigs present material risks.
Taxes Will Deter Ecig Use
Excessive taxes on these low risk products will discourage smokers from switching and will push them to just smoke even more.
Unbiased View Of Scientific Arguments
National governments and WHO should not be biased when viewing scientific arguments. They should not promote or accept flawed media and activist data misinterpretation such as the gateway effects.
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