International Tobacco Harm Reduction & the effectiveness of smokeless alternatives

The International Tobacco Harm Reduction Conference took place virtually in Bulgaria in September 2020, with a wide attendance of academics, scientists, experts in public health, and policymakers, in addition to a number of international media representatives. The conference witnessed a number of events covering discussions and lectures on the latest scientific evidence proving the effectiveness of smoke-free alternatives for adults who do not wish to quit smoking, and who would continue to smoke. It also covered a variety of topics including public health policies for tobacco and nicotine, and the latest organizational decisions on smoke-free tobacco products

Among the most important decisions the participants concluded, was that new innovations such as tobacco heating products and electronic cigarettes play an important role as new, and less harmful, alternatives to conventional cigarettes for adult smokers who cannot, or do not want to quit smoking, . So far a unified method to implement the concept of “Harm reduction” does not exist, since this concept is built on a variety of strategies and Methodologies. In a session labelled “Tobacco Harm Reduction in the Twenty First Century: How Can we Save Lives? / Tobacco Harm Reduction Effects on Cancer”, Dr. Effrin Cambronero, a leading oncologist in Cost Rica Cancer Center, stated that research shows that about 80% out of 1.3 billion smokers come from middle and low income countries, and that 8 million people lost their lives due to cigarette smoking related diseases worldwide, that passive smoking kills, and that it constitutes a huge economic burden on countries. He added that smoking cigarettes is decreasing in many countries due to the increasing demand of heated tobacco products that heat tobacco instead of burning it, and that are considered a better alternative to cigarettes. Cambronero pointed out that the goal behind tobacco and alcohol harm reduction is reducing health risks, on individuals and society as a whole.

Speakers agreed on the importance of tobacco heating products and electronic cigarettes in alleviating the effectiveness of “harm reduction”, since the availability of modified risk alternatives to traditional cigarettes are a safe venue for quitting using nicotine containing products that should not be consumed to start with. Speakers also agreed that heated tobacco products are not an entry to nonsmokers, despite the fact that it is not completely risk free. It can reduce the level of chemicals, and present a sensory experience similar to the taste and flavor of nicotine, offering smokers a satisfactory experience.

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