Hosted during United Nations week in September 2022, the inaugural New Approaches to Tobacco Control conference at the Harvard Club aimed to examine the science of harm reduction, regulatory approaches, and technological innovations.
Nataliia Toropova, an international health expert and a passionate tobacco-control advocate for more than 15 years, and Derek Yach, MBChB MPH, a global health expert with more than 30-years of experience in tackling a wide range of health issues, were co-chairs of the Conference.
This healthcare conference investigates how reducing global dependence on tobacco can meet the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
According to Derek Yach, the achievement of SDG 3.4, (reduction of non-communicable disease deaths) is unattainable unless adult smokers are supported to quit or switch to reduced risk nicotine products. In addition, SDGs related to hunger (2), gender (5), industry innovation (9), inequalities (10), climate action (13), deforestation (15) and partnerships (17) will benefit from accelerated efforts to end smoking.
Specifically, the United Nations has already proposed SDG 3 to improve public health, most of which can be addressed by a reduction in tobacco use. As the tobacco industry contributes 84 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually, a reduction in tobacco cultivation will also contribute to achieving SDG 13 on climate action and SGD 6 on clean water.
Neverthless, the slow pace of progress led by WHO and most governments was contrasted with the speed of innovation in developing a range of solutions needed to end smoking. Unless they are widely adopted, SDG 3 (health) is unachievable. To make progress, greater attention to globalizing the fruits of SDG 9 (innovation), through private-public partnerships are needed. This is underway in addressing issues as diverse as climate change, food insecurity, and pandemic responses.
Reviewing the UK as case study on tobacco control in a global perspective, Dr. Javed Khan, OBE, said: "Cigarettes contain 7,000 chemicals, mainly toxins. Using vaping as a quitting tool is about risk reduction. We must offer what’s better, rather than wait for what’s perfect".
New approaches are not confined to technology advances. They include the following goals:
- The lives of smokers and in particular those with early-stage disease and mental health issues are at stake. Learn from experiences of the “war on drugs” that prohibitionist policies have untoward effects, harm the most vulnerable users, and stimulate illicit activity.
- Build links between health and environmental leaders. This includes phasing out the use of tobacco in favor of synthetic nicotine, stepping up support to farmers to transition to needed food and high yielding cash crops, and developing cross industry initiatives to promote recycling and sustainable disposal of new products.
- Adapt the best practices of a few lead countries where access to latest generation nicotine products, in particular vaporizers or well-designed NRTs, is accelerating an end to smoking worldwide. The UK government is especially well placed to share their science-based successes with all other governments.
- Focus innovation and efforts to end smoking more sharply in countries where smoking rates are high and still increasing. Embrace innovation in harm reduction technology development, access and use in all countries. This includes investing regionally in order to adapt solutions and have informed scientists able to guide national policy makers and media outlets.
The diversity of attendees, and their commitment to progress augurs well for the future and ensures that this meeting will not be another UN talk shop but will yield new efforts of substance and impact.
About the New Approaches to Tobacco Harm Reduction Conference
The conference was founded as a collaboration between public health professionals, tobacco control advocates, public policy experts, and industry participants working on cutting edge research and commercialization of technologies that save lives. Its mission is to bring tobacco harm reduction to the international policy stage as the world moves towards health improvement, sensible regulatory frameworks, and away from combustion tobacco.
Featured Keynote: The Khan Review in a Global Perspective - The UK as Case Study on Tobacco Control