The tobacco harm reduction policy in the spotlight

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The United States Food and Drug Administration recently authorized the sale of an electronic cigarette for the first time in the United States, calling attention to a harm reduction policy, designed to reduce the associated negative social or physical impacts. to tobacco consumption.

Last month, the U.S. FDA issued marketing orders to vaporizer company RJ Reynolds for its electronic nicotine delivery device and accompanying tobacco flavored e-liquid pods via the route. of the pre-market tobacco product demand (PMTA).

Major US media saw the move as yet another sign of a shift in the direction of tobacco control in the United States.

The FDA said in a statement that it “has determined that the potential benefits for smokers who switch completely (to vaping devices) or significantly reduce their consumption of (traditional) cigarettes would outweigh the risk to young people.”

Harm reduction policy refers to the replacement of highly harmful products with less harmful products with the aim of improving public health or providing social benefits.

Harm reduction applies not only to tobacco, but also to food, various products that affect the environment and sources of energy.

For example, instead of using internal combustion engine vehicles that use environmentally harmful fossil fuels, regulators and the auto industry are looking to switch to less harmful electric or hydrogen cars.

The process of generating energy sources for electric or hydrogen cars is still not 100% environmentally friendly, but they are less harmful to the environment.

Some 400,000 people still die from smoking-related illnesses in the United States.

The US FDA has focused on the problems of traditional cigarettes that are burned and smoked.

Noting that toxic chemicals released when tobacco is burned cause disease, US regulators are seeking to provide consumers with accurate information about e-cigarettes and unburned products.

The US FDA confirmed in 2019 that e-cigarettes reduce harm by deciding to issue PMTA prescriptions on Philip Morris International e-cigarettes, which it says “will help protect public health.”

In 2020, the FDA first cleared the company’s e-cigarettes as a modified risk tobacco product, saying the move “will help improve public health.”

The UK government is also taking a similar approach. UK regulators have officially declared that electronic cigarettes are 95% safer than tobacco.

Public Health England posted a short video of an experiment that showed the difference in the amount of toxic chemicals released from smoking and vaping.

The intention is to encourage those who cannot quit smoking to at least switch to electronic cigarettes.

At the 2021 Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum in the UK, public health and regulatory experts stressed the importance of providing accurate information to adult nicotine consumers so that they can choose tobacco substitutes based on scientific information on harm reduction.

They agreed that smoking was the biggest problem in the world and that an effective harm reduction policy was needed to address this problem.

At the GTNF, it was also emphasized that adult smokers can always make a better choice if they have enough information on tobacco harm reduction.

According to a study by the American electronic cigarette company Juul Labs, there was a chance of shifting 50% of adult consumers purchasing Juul products in stores from combustible cigarettes to Juul products.

Most of them were adult smokers who found it difficult to quit or had no interest in quitting.

A recent survey by Philip Morris International of some 29,000 people around the world showed that over 45% were uninformed and believed that unburned cigarettes were more or as harmful as regular cigarettes.

In addition, nearly 60 percent of those surveyed misunderstood the causes of smoking-related illnesses.

In October, 100 public health and nicotine policy experts called on the World Health Organization to adopt the tobacco harm reduction policy; create an independent review of WHO’s approach to tobacco control; and appropriately address bad practices in the tobacco industry without hindering the emergence of reduced risk products.

Despite calls from doctors and scientists to reduce the harm of tobacco, global health organizations such as the WHO and governments still enforce the same regulations on tobacco and unburned cigarettes.

Konstantinos Farsalinos, a doctor and researcher at the Onassis Heart Surgery Center in Greece, said the problem was a matter of perception.

“Harm reduction is an approach and a strategy that we can use in everyday life. The goal of this policy should not be “adding”; it should be on “harmfulness,” he said.

By Kim So-hyun ([email protected])

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