The theme for the Global Forum on Nicotine-2022 (#GFN22) in Warsaw, Poland, is “Tobacco Harm Reduction - here for good”. Harm reduction through safer nicotine products can hasten the end of smoking and other risky tobacco use. #GFN22 explored the science behind the approach, the policy and regulatory changes needed to maximise its potential and the barriers to its implementation around the world. The conference theme was optimistic - because tobacco harm reduction is here for good.
A new study launched at the ninth annual Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw shows implementation of the WHO's tobacco control measures known as MPOWER has no clear association with low-levels of tobacco-related mortality in Europe.
Instead, the independent research, conducted by distinguished tobacco dependence researcher Dr Lars M. Ramström, shows that switching from smoking to Swedish-style snus, a safer nicotine product, is a more effective strategy to reduce the harms caused by tobacco.
Presented to hundreds of delegates, as well as over 50 international experts on tobacco and nicotine science who were speaking at #GFN22, the new findings provided further evidence that the WHO must embrace tobacco harm reduction as part of its global tobacco control response by supporting the use of safer nicotine products to quit smoking.
In 2007, the WHO launched MPOWER, a process and monitoring mechanism to implement the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), an international treaty developed in response to the global nature of the public health crisis caused by tobacco use and smoking. Comprising six measures, it aims to reduce the demand for tobacco. But, despite 15 years of MPOWER, there are still 1.1bn smokers worldwide, a total unchanged since 2000, and eight million annual tobacco-related deaths.
To assess MPOWER's effectiveness, Dr Ramström compared the extent of implementation of these tobacco control measures with tobacco-related death rates across Europe by using figures provided by the Tobacco Control Scale, a tool that grades every European country's level of MPOWER application, and data on tobacco-related mortality from The Global Burden of Disease.
After analysing his results, Dr Ramström found no correlation between tobacco-related mortality and a country's level of implementation of MPOWER measures for Europe's women, and a very weak correlation for the continent's men.
Crucially, though, the two countries with the lowest tobacco-related mortality for men were Sweden and Norway. In both nations a large proportion of male smokers have switched from cigarettes to Swedish-style snus, a product that is freely available in both, but banned from sale in the EU except Sweden. Despite Sweden's TCS score being below average, it has achieved a lower rate of tobacco-related mortality than all the countries that have higher levels of MPOWER implementation except Norway, providing further evidence in support of tobacco harm reduction.
More presentations from #GFN22: