53 specialists in nicotine science and public health policy have written to Dr Margaret Chan, Director General of the World Health Organisation (WHO) about tobacco harm reduction. The letter is asking WHO to adopt a positive and rational approach to products which provide very low-risk alternatives to smoking such as e-cigarettes, and the letter is now grabbing news attention around the globe.
The 53 specialists are putting forward the informed view that “the idea that the 1.3 billion people who currently smoke could do much less harm to their health if they consumed nicotine in low-risk, non-combustible form.” Smoke free alternatives offer great promise for public health, rather than being viewed as part of the problem.
The letter states 'We have known for years that people ‘smoke for the nicotine, but die from the smoke’: the vast majority of the death and disease attributable to tobacco arises from inhalation of tar particles and toxic gases drawn into the lungs. There are now rapid developments in nicotine-based products that can effectively substitute for cigarettes but with very low risks. These include for example, e-cigarettes and other vapour products, low-nitrosamine smokeless tobacco such as snus, and other low-risk non-combustible nicotine or tobacco products that may become viable alternatives to smoking in the future. Taken together, these tobacco harm reduction products could play a significant role in meeting the 2025 UN non-communicable disease (NCD) objectives by driving down smoking prevalence and cigarette consumption.'