COP8 IS FINALLY HERE ! THE HARM REDUCTION APPROACH NEEDS TO BE INTEGRATED

The Eighth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP8) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) is finally here . I am happy to see my fellow harm reduction advocates there, hopefully they will be allowed to enter.

The FCTC recognizes harm reduction as an integral part of tobacco control. I think it is time to apply this strategy! We should integrate harm reduction strategies into existing tobacco control policies and to accelerate the decline in smoking prevalence worldwide. It’s important for policy makers and health officials to take on board the needs and asks of smokers . I’m not about the rights of smokers to self-destruct versus the rights of non-smokers to a smoke- free environment . Smokers should be brought to the table in the fight against smoking,after all , this is about them . It’s their lives at stake here .If the number of smokers should be reduced, then the ethically-correct way to go about it is to offer a better solution: allow unhindered access to an unrestricted range of highly-attractive low-risk alternatives.

Many smokers are unable — or at least unwilling — to achieve cessation through complete nicotine and tobacco abstinence; they continue smoking despite the very real and obvious adverse health consequences. Conventional smoking cessation policies and programs generally present smokers with two unpleasant alternatives: quit, or die.Tobacco control & the FCTC need to realize the new innovative realities .

Despite reassuring statistics by Mr Bloomberg and others, it is clear that tobacco control is NOT gaining any significant success in LMICs, in fact smoking prevalence — that is declining in most westernized civilization — is still growing amongst several LMICs at an alarming rate (and particularly amongst the young and poor).Acknowledging that the use of ENDS/ANDS are part of an effective harm reduction strategy; reversing the decision taken at COP7 to invite countries to consider regulatory measures that might include restricting or banning the manufacture or importation; confirming that all Parties to the FCTC should regulate ENDS/ANDS separately from traditional combustible tobacco products.

Tobacco kills 7 Million people every year. Now, the question is: are we correctly addressing the challenge of smoking epidemic. Is there any other additional strategies that can help us accelerate the smoking end game? The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Treaty recognizes harm reduction as an integral part of tobacco control as defined by Article 1(d).

It is time to apply this strategy! It is time to integrate harm reduction strategies into existing tobacco control policies and to accelerate the decline in smoking prevalence, by allowing widespread access to combustion free nicotine delivery products.Obtaining nicotine through products that do not burn tobacco, particularly by vaping, is far less dangerous than smoking — and should be encouraged to wean people off cigarettes.

A multi-pronged approach to tobacco harm reduction in the low-and middle-income countries of sub-Saharan Africa, that incorporates both tobacco consumption and production, is needed. Harm reduction has multiple benefits for the smoker, non-smoker, economy and environment as well. It is high time WHO FCTC embraced harm reduction in the fight against smoking.