Africa: New International Association Founded to Focus on Smoking Control, Harm Reduction

1 October 2020

At the closing of the third scientific Summit on Tobacco Harm Reduction that was held virtually on September 24th and 25th, an official declaration was made to announce the founding of the International Association on Smoking Control and Harm Reduction - SCOHRE.

According to the members, this association includes: international experts on Smoking Control & Harm Reduction including scientists , medical doctors, policy experts, behavioral experts, academics and other professionals.

The purpose of the Association is to provide stakeholders with science-based and balanced information on the effects of nicotine. Nicotine is an addictive substance. However, it is being used successfully in smoking control and smoking cessation, and it could be used in smoking harm reduction. Nicotine has an addictive potential but plays a minor role in smoking related mortality.

The group wholly recognized that innovative approaches have emerged based on potentially safer alternatives to cigarettes, for smokers who, for various reasons, cannot give up smoking completely or do not want to. Nevertheless, according to the members the international health situation regarding cigarettes and high rates of tobacco related diseases make it urgent to take action: " Despite knowing the harmful health effects of smoking for decades, still more than 1 billion people globally smoke and more than 7 million die prematurely every year from smoking-related disease… We believe that smoking control strategies should be reshaped to include harm reduction through alternative potentially lower risk products use, besides the traditional smoking cessation and smoking prevention measures".

Despite the obvious advancements, tobacco harm reduction advocates are still facing a lot of resistance from key organizations, including policy and regulatory entities. "We need to find a way of establishing a constructive dialogue to discuss concerns and challenges."

The organization will focus on:

- Scientific evidence, including sharing and publicizing the latest scientific data, identifying research gaps, independent verification of the industry data.
- Behavioral aspects
– focus on smokers – what are the needs of those who want to quit smoking, as well as how to effectively help those who are not willing to quit.
- Making policy recommendations
- Establishing a dialogue with policy experts and regulators at international, EU and national levels.

During the 2 day summit, the experts repeatedly stated that the consumer is the one who should decide for her or himself knowing that quitting is difficult for most of cigarettes consumers: "Harm reduction can help those who are not able to quit smoking. This group of smokers should not be abandoned by tobacco control policies. Where cessation repeatedly fails, switching to less harmful products will have a positive effect for many smokers.

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