Harm reduction policies have been developed “extensively and successfully in many countries for several decades”, RELDAT says. “For these countries, the emergence of HIV in the 1980s meant changing their conceptions in the exercise of sexuality and drug use. This inevitably was about removing the stigma of the collective of injectable drug users and the sexual behaviour of the population.”
The organisation quotes the UK’s Professor Stimson: “If you stigmatize people, you can't connect with them. Individuals should take control of factors that affect their own health.”
RELDAT (1) notes that it was the UK government’s willingness to embrace a harm reduction approach that led to us becoming the country with the lowest rates of HIV infection in the world. Applying a harm reduction philosophy to smoking by promoting vaping resulted in the UK becoming a world leader once again.
"Successful implementation of tobacco harm reduction policies should consider not attacking nicotine smokers and consumers."
RELDAT points to other nations to which have experienced various levels of success through smokers transitioning to e-cigs.
“France, Sweden, New Zealand and even the US, among others, are developing tobacco harm reduction policies and reporting successes, with historic declines in smoking rates.”
The organisation continues: “In Latin America, we must apply the lessons learned from the approach of harm reduction in other fields, which allowed legitimate interventions such as condoms, the exchange of injection equipment, methadone, medical marijuana laws or the gums and nicotine patches themselves, without being understood as an apology of consumption, since it is not. We must also learn from the tobacco harm reduction policies of developed countries in the field, in a realistic and evidence-based way, to address the greatest preventable cause of death in the world.”
The members of RELDAT will be urging authorities to consider Tobacco Control policies seriously and explore new ways to implement it by replacing old policies that have proven not to be entirely useful for an effective decline in smoking rates in Latin America.
"It is surprising that there is a lack of ambition in the region to study alternatives that contribute to effectively lowering smoking rates," says Dr Diego Verrastro, the network spokesman.
"Harm reduction needs to be promoted as an essential smoking control policy and strategy to value the role that proper communication on the risk profile of combustion cigarette alternatives can play is the difference between success or continuity."
- The Latin American Network for the Reduction of Damage Associated with Smoking (RELDAT) - https://www.reldat.org