Sunday December 16, 2018

Experts urge WHO to back Tobacco Harm-Reduction Strategies at the Seventh Conference of the Parties

Government policies seek to remove barriers to the availability of better, safer, non-combustible nicotine delivery products

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A cigarette on an ashtray. Wikimedia
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November 7,2016: The seventh Conference of the Parties (CoP7) of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) — the world’s first public health treaty — kicked off here Monday with a coalition of experts seeking a focus on policy for new nicotine products like e-cigarettes.

The FCTC entered into force in 2005 and establishes requirements and recommendations for reducing demand-supply of tobacco products to reduce preventable diseases and premature death caused by tobacco use. As many as 180 countries are now parties to the convention.

Ahead of the conference, a coalition of top tobacco harm-reduction experts warned that “one in two life-long smokers will die prematurely from a smoking-related disease”.

The coalition, established to provide balanced, evidence-based information on harm reduction, observed that “if current smoking patterns and trends continue, a billion people might die from smoking-related diseases in the 21st century”.

“Despite the availability of smoking-cessation medications, many smokers do not want to try them. Of those who use them, the majority either fail or relapse within a year,” the coalition pointed out in a Mission Statement.

It explains how “public health experts have recommended that smokers be encouraged… to switch completely to less harmful substitutes”.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified harm-reduction strategies as a core principle of tobacco control, and recently stated: “If the great majority of tobacco smokers who are unable or unwilling to quit would switch… to using an alternative source of nicotine with lower health risks… this would represent a significant contemporary public health benefit.”

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According to the Mission Statement, there are new technologies that comply with this principle. One such is the “electronic cigarette” — or, as WHO calls it, Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, ENDS — which delivers nicotine without burning tobacco. The vapor from e-cigarettes and personal vaporisers contains very low levels of potentially-harmful chemicals”.

According to the experts, Public Health England recently concluded vaping is at least 95 per cent safer than smoking and acknowledged that e-cigarettes can be an effective aid to quitting smoking.

The experts said they support “government policies that seek to remove barriers to the availability of better, safer, non-combustible nicotine delivery products, with appropriate quality standards and regulations”.

They added that disproportionate restrictions — regulation of e-cigarettes as medical products, restrictions similar to tobacco cigarettes, advertising bans — will make such products expensive and create misconceptions that they are as harmful as smoking.

The coalition called such measures “counter-productive”.

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The Tobacco Harm Reduction Expert Group includes Konstantinos E. Farsalinos of the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens; Prof. Riccardo Polosa of the Institute for Internal and Emergency Medicine, University of Catania; Christopher Russell of the Centre for Substance Use Research, Glasgow; Amir Ullah Khan, member of the Telangana government’s Commission of Inquiry on Socioeconomic Conditions; Julian Morris, Vice President of Research at Reason Foundation; and Prof. Rajesh N. Sharan of the Department of Biochemistry, North-Eastern Hill University. (IANS)

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Road Traffic Accidents Cause 1.35 Mn Deaths Each Year: WHO

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

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Traffic Crashes, Road Traffic
Two bikes were involved in an accident with a bus that crashed and turned on its roof near the town of Franschhoek, South Africa, March 7, 2015. VOA

The World Health Organization (WHO) is calling for urgent action to put a brake on road traffic crashes that kill 1.35 million people every year, mostly in poor developing countries.

In Geneva, the U.N. agency launched its global status report on road safety 2018.

The report found road traffic injuries to be the leading killer of children and young people aged five to 29 years, with a death occurring every 24 seconds. The report said more than half of those killed are pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcycle riders and passengers.

Etienne Krug, head of the U.N. Agency’s Department on Disability, Violence and Injury Prevention, called these deaths a huge inequality issue.

Traffic Signals, Road Traffic
Traffic and congestion on roads is frequent in all cities of India. Wikimedia

“Low-income countries have one percent of the vehicles in the world and 13 percent of all the deaths; while high-income countries have 40 percent of all the vehicles,” Krug said. “So, that is 40 times more, but only seven percent of the deaths.That is half of the deaths with 40 times more vehicles.”

The report said death rates are highest in Africa and lowest in Europe. Some of the key risk factors include speeding, drinking and driving, and failure to use seat belts, motorcycle helmets and child restraints.

Krug said putting the right measures in place will save lives. These include the right legislation and enforcement, creating special lanes for cyclists and improving the quality of vehicles.

Road accidents in India
Road accidents in India. Pixabay

“It is not acceptable that vehicles are being sold in developing countries that look the same as the vehicles that we see here in Switzerland or the U.S. or anywhere else, but that are not,” Krug told VOA. “Because to make them cheaper, they have been stripped of all of their safety features, such as air bags or electronic stability control, etc.”

WHO noted that 48 middle- and high-income countries that have implemented strong road traffic laws and other safety measures have made progress in reducing road deaths.

Also Read: HIV Epidemic Spreading Rapidly in Pakistan: WHO

However, it said no such progress has been made in low-income countries where safety measures are lacking. (VOA)