The 3rd Asia Harm Reduction Forum, AHRF is officially held in Seoul, South Korea on 6th September. This year’s hot topics are related to new types of tobacco products such as electronic cigarettes and heat not burn devices, especially their contribution to curbing traditional smoking habits.
AHRF is a public health network platform in Asia. It aims to promote effective exchange of views among health practitioners, policymakers, academics and consumers in Asia and the Pacific on reducing tobacco hazards. The main objective of AHRF is to disseminate knowledge on reducing tobacco and nicotine hazards from a global public health perspective and to raise awareness and debate on the concept of hazard reduction. The first AHRF was launched in Jakarta in November 2017.
The forum was attended by public health experts from 18 countries and called on global public health authorities to adopt feasible regulatory options to help traditional smokers abandon cigarettes. This includes understanding the benefits of nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) and heated tobacco products (HTP) in this effort.
Smokers have the right to less harmful alternatives
Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, the main spokesman for AHRF, said that a total ban on electronic cigarettes was harmful to smokers who could have opted for harmful products.
Heart disease experts and researchers say it is incumbent on health professionals to inform the public about ENDS and HTP in order to save 8 million people worldwide who die from smoking each year. “We have a responsibility to tell the truth to the public, and we will let everyone choose what is in their best interests.”
He added that based on a comparative study of e-cigarettes and traditional cigarettes, e-cigarettes could be said to be the most effective alternative to traditional tobacco products “so far”.
Dr. Farsalinos also cited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report, which showed that high school and high school students in the United States used cigarettes for more than seven years, with ENDS gaining popularity. According to CDC data, the smoking rate of middle school students dropped from 4.3% in 2011 to 1.8% in 2018, while that of high school students dropped from 15.8% in 2011 to 8.1% in 2018.
Although the focus is on preventing teenagers from being exposed to nicotine from the beginning, he says it is unfair to avoid electronic cigarettes altogether for this reason alone. “Of course, we don’t want teenagers or even adult non-smokers to accept ENDS, but I think it’s a huge mistake to cheat smokers just because we don’t want teenagers to become addicted.”
The role of government in decision-making
With the gradual finalization of the Tobacco Control Act in Malaysia, many people are curious about the future fate of ENDS and HTP under the new global law.
Dr. Marewa Glover is committed to reducing smoking among New Zealand aborigines and hopes that New Zealand will become a model for the government to seek to manage such products. Providing less harmful alternatives to tobacco and lowering prices are key steps for countries to take regulatory measures to get smokers to quit traditional cigarettes, she said.
Dr. Farsalinos also agreed that governments must develop policies responsibly to reduce tobacco hazards in order to prevent governments from continuing to derive tax benefits from tobacco sales.
David Sweanor, a part-time law professor at the University of Ottawa, said technological innovations in ENDS and HTP could increase safety and affordable prices, triggering a market that attracts both former smokers and manufacturing.
According to World Bank data, Swedes believe that Indonesia is a country with commercial potential for such enterprises, and Indonesia has the highest male smoking rate in Asia (76%). “If Indonesian companies are allowed to develop e-cigarettes and these products are cheaper and easier to obtain than cigarettes, then Indonesia can develop a new supply chain and introduce this technology to other countries.”
1. At the 3rd Asian Harm Reduction Forum, experts and scholars have agreed that e-cigarettes are the most effective tobacco harm reduction products. Although prevention of adolescents is a trend, it should not be used as a reason to deceive consumers.
2. According to Dr. Farsalinos, it is necessary for global regulators to tell smokers the difference between traditional cigarettes and new types of tobacco. Fighting electronic cigarettes will erase the health rights and interests of traditional smokers.
3. For the transition from traditional tobacco to new tobacco products, price is the key factor for smokers to decide whether to turn. It is imperative to regulate electronic cigarettes, which can reduce the use cost of ENDS or other new types of tobacco through technological innovation.
4. According to data from the World Bank, countries with high smoking population have innate advantages in developing e-cigarette industry. Compared with Indonesia, although China is not the country with the highest male smoking rate, it has the largest smoking population. With more than 300 million smokers and a perfect electronic tobacco supply chain, the government should grasp the industrial advantages of new tobacco in the Pearl River Delta region in China and promote the development of new tobacco industry.
5. “Reducing harm” is not a compulsory way to treat the public and patients in order to achieve efficient impact in a short time. The aim of “harm reduction” is to “reduce” the factors of harm by implementing a long-term plan, while improving public awareness of these harms.