New Opportunities Must Not Be Wasted

Posted 20th June 2023 by Dave Cross
 New Opportunities Must Not Be Wasted lead image
New opportunities to reduce tobacco-related death and disease must not be wasted – harm reduction is the focus at the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw. The event takes place this week from Wednesday 21 to Saturday 24 June at the Marriott Hotel. As well as conference presentations, additional sidebar events will be happening by and for consumer advocacy groups.
  • 10th edition of Global Forum on Nicotine taking place in Polish capital next week;
  •  Sessions focus on the opportunities and challenges of tobacco harm reduction, including the scientific evidence around safer nicotine products and their appropriate regulation;
  • 70 international experts, including people who have quit smoking through switching to safer nicotine products, will address hundreds of delegates from over 80 countries;
  • Open to all, the conference is also streaming selected sessions online free, with simultaneous Spanish and Russian translations.

The tenth annual Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN23) is convening in Warsaw, Poland where hundreds of delegates from over 80 countries will hear from 70 expert speakers, including public health specialists, scientists, physicians, regulators and safer nicotine product consumers. The focus of the four-day conference is the huge potential of tobacco harm reduction to reduce smoking- and tobacco-related death and disease over the next decade - and the risks to public health if the approach is not integrated into the global response to tobacco use.

Harm reduction is an evidence-based public health approach grounded in human rights,

consisting of pragmatic actions that reduce health risks to individuals and communities. Many harm reduction interventions, such as condom use to prevent HIV/AIDS transmission, have long been accepted and promoted in global public health, including by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Despite decades of tobacco control activity, one billion people continue to smoke, and seven million people die of smoking-related disease every year. Smoking-related diseases are not caused by nicotine, which is a relatively low-risk substance, but instead by the toxins released when tobacco burns and smoke is inhaled.

Tobacco harm reduction encourages adult smokers who cannot or do not want to stop using nicotine to switch from deadly combustible cigarettes to safer nicotine products, which include nicotine vapes, nicotine pouches, Swedish-style snus, and heated tobacco products. None of these products burn tobacco. All have been demonstrated to be significantly safer than continued use of combustible tobacco.

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GFN23 will tackle the opportunities and challenges of tobacco harm reduction over the next decade, including the development of appropriate regulatory systems that enable adult smokers to access safer products while reducing youth uptake. The four-day programme is extensive, with sessions covering a diverse range of topics including:

  • the last decade of science around safer nicotine products and their efficacy in smoking cessation;
  • how to ensure equality of access to safer nicotine products;
  • efforts to reduce the environmental impact of safer nicotine products;
  • how moral stances and ideology impact on science and regulation;
  • medicinal licensing of vaping products and the potential implications for public health.

Although smoking is one of the leading causes of non-communicable disease and directly leads to millions of deaths each year, the WHO is currently opposed to harm reduction for tobacco.

Ibero-American experts at GFN23 will discuss the upcoming WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Tenth Conference of the Parties (COP10) in Panama this November, where decisions on the future of safer nicotine products may have grave implications for global public health.

Unlike most events that operate in the intersections between public health and tobacco and nicotine policy, the organisers of GFN ensure that people who have switched from smoking to safer nicotine products and manufacturers of safer nicotine products both attend and speak. Both of these groups are routinely excluded from the majority of international meetings and events, including FCTC COP meetings, despite both playing a critical role in informing and shaping the debates around safer nicotine products and tobacco harm reduction.

 Dave Cross
Article by Dave Cross
Freelance writer, salad destroyer and live culture convert.
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