The name of the conference,”Tobacco OR Health”, implies that the two cannot co-exist. “The cigarette is the single most deadly consumer product ever made,” said Ruth Malone, a professor at the University of California’s San Francisco School of Nursing and editor-in-chief of the Tobacco Control journal.

While smoking rates are dropping drastically in most developed countries, global smoking rates are still on the increase.
While smoking rates are dropping drastically in most developed countries, global smoking rates are still on the increase. This is partly attributed to the fact that with the increased awareness about the dangers of smoking in the West, Big Tobacco seems targeting the poorer countries where health awareness still lacks dramatically and smoking is at times still considered a symbol of manhood.

In fact, last year alone, the tobacco industry is thought to have sold 5.5 trillion cigarettes to nearly a billion smokers, generating some $700 billion (570 billion euros) in sales. “The fact remains that one out of every four men still smoke, as do one out every 20 women,” said Emmanuela Gakidou, a researcher at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation.

The conference will review the latest scientific research about e-cigarettes, look at tobacco related upcoming trends and debate which policies seem to work best in stunting smoking rates.

Kelley Lee, a policy expert at Simpson Fraser University in British Columbia seems to think that increased cigarette taxes are the answer. “The single most effective measure to reduce tobacco use is to increase the price of tobacco products, through taxation or pricing,” she said.

Do increased cigarette prices really deter smokers?

However, data from Australia seems to indicate otherwise. Smoking rates down under, have risen by over 21,000 to 2.4 million between 2013 and 2016. “For the first time ever, there has been no statistically significant reduction in the smoking rate, and an increase in the number of smokers in Australia,” said Colin Mendelsohn, an expert in public health at the University of New South Wales, whilst pointing out that for the first time, the smoking rates in Australia have exceeded those in the US.

“This is despite plain packaging and the most expensive cigarette prices in the world.” A packet of cigarettes in Australia costs an average of $25.10, while in the UK it would cost $14.80 and $8.50 in the US. Mendelsohn together with a number of other public health and anti-smoking experts believes that the use of harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes and snus should be encouraged.

Data indicates that the harm reduction approach is the most effective

In fact data from the UK, where e-cigarettes are fully endorsed as smoking cessation tools, clearly indicates that since the advent of vaping, smoking rates have reached a record low. The UK now also boasts the second lowest smoking rates in Europe, second only to Sweden, where the lowest smoking rates have been achieved thanks to the widespread use of snus.