By Ayomide Ibironke
The Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) has launched the ‘Burning Issues,’ a unique project established to mark the availability and use of safe nicotine products around the world.
The GSTHR document the progress and public health potential of tobacco harm reduction because even before the COVID-19 pandemic hits the world had been witnessing a global public health crisis every day, and over eight million smoking-related deaths a year are projected a billion deaths by the end of the century.
Two years ago, the GSTHR published their first report ‘No Fire, No Smoke’. To say a lot has happened since in the world and in the tobacco harm reduction field would be something of an understatement and so here we are in 2020 where the second dromedaries ‘Burning Issues’ and we are looking at what has gotten better, what has gotten worse, and what remains frustratingly exactly the same.
During the first session, the first speaker David Nutt, the founder of Drug Sciences estimated the harms of nicotine products in the 21st century. He said people smoke for the nicotine, but other components of cigarette smoke do most of the damage.
He further explained how broken scientists decided the systematic way of comparing different harms of nicotine products with collocating with ‘Larry Philips’ Emeritus Professor of Decision Science.
Fiona Patten who is an Australian politician has given insight on who politicians should listen to when developing policy, she said politicians should listen to people like David Nutt who are the experts and have the evidence.
She also emphasized by saying who politicians should listen to might not be the right question to be asked, she said the experts are being listened to but the policy questions been answered are probably not right because they are not answering the right questions. For example they do not ask questions like how can we reduce the harm? How can we prevent children from accessing these products? etc.
She said if there was to be a developing policy to reduce the harm of nicotine devices such as vaping or incontinent products, you will regulate what could be sold and how it could be sold.
If you want to ensure that young people don’t have access to this products you will regulate where such products could be sold and who they could be sold to and you wouldn’t consult with big tobacco companies about products that would reduce their sales.
Chimwemwe Ngoma a social scientist, tobacco harm reduction advocate and Project Manager for THR Malawi discussed the role of tobacco harm reduction for health in low and middle countries (LMICs)
He said in most LMICs THR products are either banned completely in a country like the Gambia, heavily taxed in countries like Kenya, or there is no specific law that governs tobacco harm reduction.
In most LMICs, THR products are very expensive to buy compared to the easily accessible combustible cigarettes.
He emphasized on the critical roles tobacco harm reduction can play in public health in low and middle countries (LMICs). He said primary strategies for reducing harm must be both encouraging cessations and capitalizing on harm reduction for those who are unable or unwilling to quit. He said some smokers wish to quit, but they are unable to do so because they are addicted to nicotine and relapse rates are staggeringly high.
Marina Foltea who is the Founder and Managing Director at Global Trade and Investment Advisors discussed the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) – accountability policy and regulation.
She stated that the objective of FCTC design is to protect the social and economic environmental consequences of tobacco consumption and the exposure of tobacco smoke by providing a framework for Tobacco Control measures.
She said tobacco control measures means a range of supply, demand and herb reduction strategies with the aim to reduce the health population by eliminating and reducing consumption of the tobacco product and export of tobacco smoke.
Final speaker Martin Cullip who is a transport company director spoke about the importance and the absence of the consumer’s voice in determining policy.
He said that the fact that some tobacco companies are making their own safe products is a result of consumers making their own decisions to move to safe products themselves.
He said consumer has the most powerful voices if its recognized and supported by the people, and there are 98 million consumers who should make their voice heard because they have extremely powerful voices that need to be heard as he concluded.