LIVERPOOL, England, June 16, 2021 /PRNewswire/ -- International public health specialists, scientists, doctors, tobacco control experts and consumers are convening for the Global Forum on Nicotine 2021 (#GFN21) on 17 and 18 June in Liverpool, UK, and streaming free online, to highlight the vital role of safer nicotine products in the fight to reduce global smoking-related death and disease.
To date, the world has lost an estimated 3.8 million people to COVID-19; a devastating figure that is, sadly, less than half the annual death toll from smoking. Every day, 1.1 billion smokers still light up around the world, a number that has stalled for over 20 years despite decades of tobacco control efforts. Eighty per cent of the world's smokers live in LMIC, least able to cope with the disease burden of smoking and in higher income countries, smoking is a major cause of health inequalities.
People smoke to obtain nicotine, a comparatively low-risk substance, but are harmed by thousands of toxins released when tobacco burns. Experts at the Global Forum on Nicotine will discuss an approach called tobacco harm reduction; adult smokers who cannot quit nicotine are encouraged to switch from dangerous combustible or oral products to safer nicotine products including vapes (e-cigarettes), pasteurised snus, non-tobacco nicotine pouches and heated tobacco devices. Compared to continued smoking, all are significantly less harmful to health.
Speaking ahead of the conference, GFN director Professor Gerry Stimson, emeritus professor at Imperial College London, said, "Up to 98 million consumers worldwide have already made the switch to safer nicotine products. In England, health authorities support vaping to quit smoking and vapes are now the most popular quit aid. Tobacco-related mortality in Sweden, where snus has almost replaced smoking, is the lowest in Europe. And in Japan, cigarette sales have dropped by a third since heated tobacco products came to market. Manufacturers must now ensure safer alternatives are affordable to people in LMIC, not just consumers in high income nations."
Professor Stimson continued, "Worryingly, international tobacco control leaders are doggedly pursuing an irresponsible prohibitionist approach to tobacco and nicotine, while the WHO actively perpetuates misinformation on new nicotine products. Public health will not be served nor lives saved by a war on nicotine, as doomed to failure as the war on drugs. The WHO must refocus its efforts on supporting 1.1 billion adult smokers to quit by all available means."