New GSTHR Briefing

Posted 19th April 2021 by Dave Cross
A new Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) briefing has been released covering potential solutions to Asia’s tobacco crisis. Current approaches side-line tobacco harm reduction products and maintain a death toll of four million smoking-related fatalities a year. Research has revealed a huge inequality between the number of smokers and number of vapers in Asia; the authors argue for the increased adoption of harm reduction alternatives like vaping.

The latest briefing from GSTHR is titled “Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Burning Issue for Asia” (1). The purpose of the document is to focus on the region most severely affected by public health impacts of tobacco.

The briefings launch was accompanied by a free online event on Sunday 18 April where leading regional commentators discussed the report findings and regional barriers to tobacco harm reduction.

They say: “6 in 10 of the world’s smokers and 9 in 10 users of dangerous oral smokeless tobacco (SLT) live in the region. Almost half the global deaths from smoking are in Asia: a devastating loss of four million people every year, and evidence of the continued failure of current tobacco control measures and the need for new, pragmatic solutions.

“Tobacco harm reduction allows people to quit smoking or using SLT by switching to safer nicotine products. Compared to smoking or SLT, vaping devices (e-cigarettes), heated tobacco products (HTP) and pasteurised oral products enable people to continue using nicotine at a fraction of the risk.

“The new briefing shows that Asia has been at the forefront of several key THR successes - the first vaping device was developed by a Chinese scientist and in Japan, cigarette sales have slumped by 32% since the introduction of HTP.”


Rather than embracing the benefits of harm reduction products, many governments in Asia have severely restricted access to or banned completely safer nicotine products – meanwhile, “deadly cigarettes and SLT remain freely on sale.”

One of the problems the briefing highlights is the role of significant state involvement or ownership of tobacco companies. It also addresses the misinformation campaign against safer nicotine products from apparently credible international agencies, and the influence of US-led philanthropic funding on domestic policymaking around tobacco and nicotine.

For the first time, the report reveals the huge disparity between the number of smokers in Asia at 743 million and the number who have switched to vaping. Research carried out for the report estimates there are 19 million people using vaping products in Asia in 2021 - meaning there are 39 smokers for every vaper in the region. Tobacco harm reduction must be scaled up - and fast.”

Harry Shapiro, the report’s author, said: “Tobacco harm reduction is truly a burning issue for Asia. Many of Asia’s millions of smoking-related deaths are preventable - if only consumers had access to safer nicotine products. Unfortunately, the failing WHO FCTC and a barrage of misinformation and anti-THR propaganda is getting in the way of public health progress in the region.”


  1. Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Burning Issue for Asia -

Globe Image by Arek Socha from Pixabay


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