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GFN18 takes place in Warsaw

This year’s Global Forum on Nicotine, the world’s leading tobacco harm reduction conference, took place in Warsaw from Thursday evening to Saturday. The event, the fifth GFN, brought together public health activists, harm reduction experts and consumer advocates for a series of presentations and discussions on the latest developments in policy and research into reduced harm products.

The theme of this year’s GFN was “Rethinking nicotine”. The main goal was to examine changing patterns and methods of nicotine use, and look at ways to move away from the traditional, failed, prohibitionist approach to tobacco control. Other topics included the impact of the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive, which has outlawed many of the most popular vapour products; the need to challenge poor science from public health activists; and the effect of vaping-friendly stop smoking services in the UK.

Speakers this year included harm reduction experts from around the world, including Professors Marewa Glover, Colin Mendelsohn and Linda Bauld. There was also participation by consumer advocates like Gregory Conley of the AVA and Sarah Jakes of the NNA.

For the second year NNA also ran alongside the International Symposium on Nicotine Technology (ISoNTech), where nicotine product manufacturers were able to demonstrate and explain their latest products. ISoNTech also featured a series of presentations on the latest nicotine technology, its development and how it fits into the changing use of nicotine.

 

Hong Kong to regulate e-cigs

Vapers in Hong Kong face a series of new restrictions, as the province’s Legislative Council considers new proposals that would bring vapour products under the same rules as tobacco. If passed, the regulations will increase the burden on manufacturers and probably raise prices for vapers. They’re also likely to spread the belief that vaping is as harmful as smoking.

Under the proposed rules, all vapour product packaging would be required to carry the same health warnings that currently apply to tobacco products. This is likely to persuade many smokers that the risks are the same, deterring them from switching. There will also be a complete ban on advertising.

As well as vapour products the new regulations would also apply to herbal cigarettes and Heat not Burn products. HnB is also likely to face a new tax on the “tobacco component” of the products, which would increase the price of Heets and similar sticks. While the regulations are at the proposal stage just now, the Legislative Council is heavily influenced by the Chinese government and rarely brings forward proposals it doesn’t intend to pass.

 

Indonesia to tax nicotine liquids

The Indonesian government plans to impose a massive new tax on e-liquid to “curb consumption of tobacco products”, a senior customs official said last week. The tax will go into effect on 1 July, and is likely to force a steep increase in prices for the country’s estimated 900,000 vapers.

According to Mr Sunaryo of the Customs and Excise Office, the vape tax will be implemented by expanding the country’s existing tobacco taxes to cover reduced-harm products. Most of Indonesia’s excise duties are collected through tobacco taxes and it makes up a significant part of the government’s revenue. The tax rate will initially be set at 57%; Sunaryo said it will only apply to liquids which contain “traces of tobacco plants,” but this is likely to be interpreted as any liquid with nicotine.

Indonesia has one of the highest smoking rates in the world, at around 67%. The most likely effect of the new tax will be to reduce smokers’ incentive to switch to a much safer alternative.

 

ACS finally admits vaping is harm reduction

In a major climbdown last week, the American Cancer Society – a long-time opponent of reduced-risk nicotine products – changed its policy framework to acknowledge that the harm caused by tobacco is almost entirely the result of combustion. They also recognised the falsity of the widespread belief that vaping is as dangerous as smoking.

Unfortunately the ACS’s acknowledgement of reality is a positive step, it hasn’t been matched by a willingness to do anything about it. The new policy framework doesn’t contain any actual policies to promote harm reduction, beyond a statement that the society will encourage smokers to cease combustible tobacco use. The ACS also continues to demand an age limit of 21 on reduced-harm products; most smokers start before the age of 18, so raising the age limit simply gives them three more years of getting used to smoking before they can buy a safer alternative.

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