Science and Environment

Nicotine may be part of solution to smoking — GFN

Rainier Allan Ronda - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — With the technology disruption brought by the development of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes, nicotine has ceased to be the problem but has become part of the solution to the persistent global smoking scourge, a vaping advocate claims.

“Nicotine is not the problem. It is a very big part of the solution,” said Andy Morrison, a former smoker and trustee for the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA), during the 5th Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) held in Warsaw, Poland last June 14-16.

The NNA is a United Kingdom-based non-profit organization that promotes understanding of the potential of safer nicotine products for reducing cigarette smoking.

The world’s leading consumer advocates and public health experts had noted that it is the tar and poisonous gases in cigarette smoke that are harmful to health, not nicotine. 

However, the challenge for smoking cessation is that many people find it hard to stop smoking because it is difficult for them to go without nicotine. 

With the advent of ENDS and e-cigarettes, there are now safer nicotine delivery products that can help people switch from smoking and thus avoid its many health risks. 

The 5th GFN’s theme for this year was “Rethinking Nicotine,” which reflects the growing interest in examining the changing patterns of nicotine use and the emerging science relating to nicotine.

“Tobacco kills two-thirds of smokers; we know that with a high degree of certainty. Current evidence shows that e-cigarettes are 95 percent less harmful than conventional cigarettes, but it would take at least 20 more years of epidemiological studies to confirm this,” said Dr. Alex Wodak, president of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation, and president of the International Harm Reduction Association from 1996 to 2004. 

“The obvious choice is to give smokers the opportunity to switch to a less harmful alternative,” Wodak added.

Other health experts have warned, however, that even vaping is harmful to health.

David Sweanor, chair of the advisory board of the Centre for Health Law, Policy & Ethics, and an adjunct professor of the Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa, said that the successful 5th GFN showed that more and more people from different backgrounds are participating in the discussion regarding tapping the ENDS and e-cigarettes for tobacco harm reduction. 

“We have made tremendous progress in breaking down regulatory barriers and achieving breakthroughs in developing safer nicotine products... We need to build on our successes and accelerate our actions,” said Sweanor, who has been actively involved in tobacco and health policy issues for over 30 years and played a leading role in setting many global precedents. 

“We need to keep our messages on tobacco harm reduction and e-cigarettes simple, so that these are easily understood by media and the general public. It’s time for tobacco harm reduction advocates to break out of our bubbles and speak to a wider audience,” said Harry Shapiro, director of DrugWise, an online drug information service, and lead author and editor of the first Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report due to be published in October 2018. 

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