The WHO has an opportunity now to improve radically the life expectancy of today’s smokers by applying the principle of harm reduction that is already one of the core principles of WHO’s tobacco control strategy.Tobacco Harm Reduction Expert Group - CoP7, New Delhi, India

The worldwide success of e-cigarettes and the lobbying of tobacco giants in favor of new tobacco products have chilled down the enthusiasm of some government with regard to ENDS, helped in that by alarming messages from the media. This situation is leading to many restrictions, disproportionate sometimes, in many countries that prevent millions of people from accessing a safer alternative to combusted tobacco.

CoP7 will play a crucial role in shaping global policy in the field of tobacco harm reduction, especially for ENDS that remain under-evaluated in their harm-reduction role compared to combusted tobacco products.

Governments from 180 countries attending the conference will be asked to consider the appropriate policy for new nicotine products. Ecigarettes, of course, are at a center position of the debates but other combustion-free novel tobacco products heat-not-burn cigarettes.

A coalition of experts has been formed, according to press release, in order to provide a guidance to the governments seeking to offer a legal perspective to e-cigarettes in their countries.

Along with Dr Konstantinos Farsalinos and Prof Riccardo Polosa, one can find Dr Christopher Russell, a British behavioural psychologist, Dr Amir Ullah Khan, an Indian economist, Julian Morris (Reason Foundation) the co-author, with Dr Amir Ullah Khan, of The Vapour Revolution: How Bottom Up Innovation is Saving Lives, and Prof Rajesh N. Sharan, an Indian biochemist and molecular biologist who recently co-authored a study on “Electronic Nicotine Delivery System (ENDS) as a substitute to conventional cigarette: an evidence-based audit” in India.

The coalition recalls that “One in two life-long smokers will die prematurely from a smoking related disease”, leading to a billion deaths from smoking-related diseases in the 21st century.

WHO’s FCTC identified harm reduction strategies as a core principle of tobacco control and has recently stated that: “If the great majority of tobacco smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit would switch without delay to using an alternative source of nicotine with lower health risks, and eventually stop using it, this would represent a significant contemporary public health benefit.” A benefit that has also been pointed out by Public Health England when the agency emitted a report that finds the e-cigarette 95% safer than combusted tobacco.

The principle of a continuum of risk in tobacco products with on one side combustible cigarettes and on the other smokeless and new tobacco products, is the view that the coalition of experts will share with delegates to avoid counter-productive measures that provide a protective environment for tobacco cigarette sales while enhancing public health.

The official mission statement of the Tobacco Expert Group can be downloaded here.


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