Tobacco harm reduction and the right to health

Posted 24th January 2020 by Dave Cross
Harm reduction organisation Knowledge•Action•Change released its new briefing paper “Tobacco harm reduction and the right to health” in London on Thursday. During a week when the World Health Organisation doubled down on its anti-vaping position, the timing of the briefing launch couldn’t be more welcome.

A spokesperson said: “The publication is intended to give a brief overview of tobacco harm reduction for people who may be unfamiliar with harm reduction as a concept, or who may not see it as part of a broader harm reduction movement. We are hoping it will have some longevity as a tool for advocacy, persuading audiences of the value of THR as an intervention in the public health crisis of tobacco use.”

“With the right to health at the core of the argument, we hope to reframe the narrative: failure to ensure access to safer nicotine products for smokers must be seen as a risk to the lives of millions of people around the world, rather than as a threat to health.”

The briefing, available on the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) website, is the combined work of Ruth Goldsmith, Harry Shapiro, Grzegorz Król, Urszula Biskupska, Gerry Stimson, Paddy Costall, Kevin Molloy, Jess Harding and Tomasz Jerzyński.

The briefing explains: “Harm reduction is a range of pragmatic policies, regulations and actions that either reduce health risks by providing safer forms of products or substances or encourage less risky behaviours. Harm reduction does not focus exclusively on the eradication of products or behaviours.”

“Tobacco harm reduction, using safer nicotine products, offers new choices to millions of people worldwide who want to switch away from smoking, but have been unable to with the options previously available.”

“There is substantial international, independent evidence that the safer nicotine products that are available today – including nicotine vaping devices (e-cigarettes), heated tobacco products and Swedish-style oral snus – are demonstrably and significantly safer than smoking tobacco.”

“Millions of people should not be denied access to products that can help them avoid poor quality of life, disease, and premature death. Preventing access to these products denies people their right to health as enshrined in many international health conventions.Where safer nicotine products are accessible and well regulated, the evidence is clear. People quit combustible tobacco in huge numbers and switch to these products – making the choice to improve their own health, at almost no cost to governments and taxpayers.”

The full document can be downloaded as a PDF file from the GSTHR website, a link can be found below.


  • “Tobacco harm reduction and the right to health” – [link]
  • GSTHR Twitter – [link]
  • GSTHR Facebook – [link]

Image courtesy of Knowledge•Action•Change

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, physicist, karateka, motorbikes, and dog walker
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