While the war in Ukraine remains a major challenge to the health and lives of Ukrainians, tobacco control has not lost its urgency. The burden on the country's public health system will increase in the coming years, and smokers significantly contribute to this burden.
Research conducted by the economic experts as part of “Healthy Initiatives” projects in Eastern European region point to the high likelihood of depressive scenarios for the economy, public health and demographics if the tobacco epidemic continues. Despite the radical reduction of smoking prevalence from 2010 (35%) to 2017 (25%), in recent years the number of "confirmed smokers" in Ukraine is decreasing very slowly while the effectiveness of traditional tobacco control tools is ineffective. It is important to pay attention to the best world practice – the experience of countries that have moved towards the goal faster than others based on science and genuine commitment to public health. The United Kingdom, the country considered to be a number one tobacco control champion, has already announced the plan to overcome the tobacco smoking epidemic by 2030.
This breakthrough for the UK has been enabled, in part, by a science-based and pragmatic approach to helping chain smokers quit with the help of harm reduction strategy as mentioned in the Article 1 of the WHO Framework on Tobacco Control. Comprehensive smoking cessation programs tailored according to the WHO FCTC requirements are unfortunately still missing in the region. Millions of adult chain smokers addicted to combustible cigarettes and willing to quit are doomed for the “cold turkey” quit attempts which are entirely ineffective.
The research conducted by Healthy Initiatives in the region, suggests there is a lack of public understanding and awareness of the harm caused by tar and other substances emitted while smoking combustible cigarettes, while nicotine is viewed as the biggest enemy causing cancer. This deceptive thought on equalizing the health harm caused by smoking combustible cigarettes and the one from using electronic cigarettes is dangerously misleading demotivating adult chain smokers from switching to harm-reduction products and gaining ten years of life.
George Gay, a Tobacco Review columnist who actively participated in the preparation of the webinar, insists smokers need education to help them make healthier choices and quit. He notes how difficult it is for the media to remain objective without having proper verified information at hand, and find objective sources of information while writing about smoking. Even in expert circles, many conclusions about addiction and the nature of smoking are subject to constant revision. However, it is crucial for the media to stay away from the cheap emotional drama and blackmail often used by some tobacco control activists lacking knowledge and professionalism, using propaganda paired with stereotypes. Instead, it is important we always remember our goal and stick to it in any turmoil around us – making the world smoke-free, helping chain smokers make healthier conscientious choices, gaining ten years of life.