The 3rd Asia Harm Reduction Forum (AHRF) was held in Seoul, and several public health and anti-smoking experts amongst whom renowned cardiologist and researcher Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, called on global health authorities to implement harm reduction strategies that will assist smokers give up cigarettes successfully.
Amongst these strategies, pointed out the speakers, is the importance in recognizing the benefit in using electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products (HTPs) for harm reduction and smoking cessation.
Blanket bans are counterproductive
Dr. Farsalinos emphasized that implementing blanket bans on ENDS does a disservice to smokers who could switch to safer alternatives. The anti-smoking crusader pointed out that it is the duty of authorities and health professionals to inform the public about the relative safety of these products. “We are responsible for telling the truth to the public and we will let everyone choose whatever is in their own best interests,” he said.
“Of course, we do not want teenagers or even adult non-smokers to take up vaping, but I think it is a huge mistake to lie to smokers (about the less harmful nature of vapes) simply because we don’t want young people to start using them.”
He added that the ongoing panic about teen vaping, does not justify making the products unavailable to smokers. “Of course, we do not want teenagers or even adult non-smokers to take up vaping, but I think it is a huge mistake to lie to smokers (about the less harmful nature of vapes) simply because we don’t want young people to start using them,” said Dr Farsalinos.
In line with this, Dr Marewa Glover, who works on reducing smoking-related harm amongst indigenous communities in New Zealand, said that she hopes that the efforts currently taking place in New Zealand, to promote the use of ENDS for smoking cessation, can be a model for governments in other countries. She pointed out that providing adequate information about the products and lowering their prices so they are accessible to all, is a good start.
Smoking is a “public health catastrophe with a technological solution”
Adjunct professor of law at the University of Ottawa, David Sweanor said that smoking is a “public health catastrophe with a technological solution”. He explained that the technological innovation of ENDS and HTP can lead to improved safety and benefit smokers and manufacturers alike. He went on to refer to Indonesia as one of the countries which would benefit from such innovation. “If Indonesian companies are allowed to innovate replacements of conventional cigarettes that are cheaper and preferable to smokers, you can create domestic industrial champions that can then import that technology to other countries.”
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