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By JOHN SAKALA
The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) Project Director, Professor Gerry Stimson of United Kingdom says having 1.2 billion smokers globally is a public health failure.

Speaking during the third session of the virtual launch of the ‘Burning Issues,’ special report Prof Stimson said according to the World Health Organisation there are 1.2 billion smokers worldwide.

He said the GSTHR is working tirelessly to discourage smokers from using combustible nicotine products and opt for non-combustible nicotine products.

He stressed that Tobacco Harm Reduction is a range of pragmatic policies, regulations and actions that either reduce health risks by providing safer alternatives of products or substances, or encourage less risky behaviours. Harm reduction does not focus exclusively on the eradication of products or behaviours.

Professor Stimson reiterated that “Tobacco harm reduction, through the use of alternative nicotine products, offers new choices to millions of people worldwide who want to switch from smoking, but have been unable to do so due to the unavailability of options. There is substantial international and independent evidence that alternative nicotine products that are available today – including nicotine vaping devices (e-cigarettes), heated tobacco products and Swedish-style oral snus – are demonstrably and significantly safer than smoking tobacco.”

Stimson believes that people who use nicotine have the right to health and deserve to be protected from harm which comes from tobacco thereby putting them at the centre of change.

He stated that whilst it is important to discourage people from using burning tobacco products, it is equally important to find alternative innovative ways of using nicotine which are safer and accessible.

He indicated that a really significant reduction of smoking of combustible cigarettes has been achieved in Japan where about 32% have switched to alternative nicotine products.

With the statistics in Japan, Prof Stimson said there is proof that the concept of Tobacco Harm Reduction works and is achievable.

“According to WHO, there are about 68 million vapers globally. We simply need urgent sensitization to roll out alternative risk reduced nicotine products at affordable prices to all consumers globally” he said.

GSTHR Executive Editor, Harry Shapiro of the UK who was also a guest speaker, had an alternate view that non-combustible tobacco products are available globally.

Mr Shapiro expressed concern about how these tobacco products are targeted at juveniles through flavoured nicotine products.

“We need a war against nicotine and that war must be won to save the new generation,” he said.

Tomasz Jerzynski weighed in with the fact that the percentage of vapers had shot up by 93% and the projection was that the number will keep going up.

While Grzegorz Krol provided information from the live certified data mapping project which will be posted on GSTHR website.

Mr Krol said by 2023 the non-combustible nicotine products will be available worldwide as they continue to grow.

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