Nicotine / THR - Change the Conversation

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This page is a translated version of the page Nicotine / THR - Change the Conversation and the translation is 100% complete.

There's only 1 "winner"

The war to end smoking has turned into the war on nicotine.

The focus has been lost, and who the "winners" and "losers" will be has changed. It is now Tobacco Control (TC) and Public Health (PH) vs. Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR). Caught in the middle are consumers who smoke, consumers who used to smoke, and industry stakeholders. AS TC/PH fights THR with both sides trying to "win" against the other, the world has forgotten the real "winners" and "losers". People who succeed at quitting smoking are the only real winners in this battle. People who die from smoking are the only losers in this fight. This is what we should be concerned about - people who smoke. It is time to #ChangeTheConversation. For TC/PH and THR to sit down and talk real solutions. Work on ways to limit initiation of smoking (and all age restricted products) while keeping Safer Nicotine (THR) products on the market for adults who smoke.

We need to listen to the people and orgs below, who have put out the call to Change The Conversation.


2021, Apr 30 - Statement addressing the Scheer Report by Professor Heino Stöver

  • Via Google Translate: "We can only achieve our ideal of a smoke-free continent if we finally include the harm reduction approach on an equal footing in anti-smoking policy. An open-ended debate would be a first step in the right direction on the EU side and could enable many smokers to switch to less harmful products."

2020, Aug 10 - Polarization Within the Field of Tobacco and Nicotine Science and its Potential Impact on Trainees

  • Divisive, dominant perspectives on e-cigarettes move the field of nicotine and tobacco science away from scientifically rigorous discourse on this important public health topic, which involves millions of lives at stake. If norms do not change, the polarized climate may pressure trainees to choose or inherit an allegiance towards an uncompromising, one-sided stance. That allegiance can then restrict career development, undermine the credibility of research, and hinder public health progress. There is an urgent need to act to avoid negatively affecting the next generation of nicotine and tobacco research scientists. Though we have suggested some solution-oriented ideas, we are calling for reflection among everyone in the field and particularly among those with influence and power.
  • There are important questions that must be addressed, including: (1) as the field continues to conquer a range of research questions on e-cigarettes across a range of disciplines and career levels, how can we work better together toward the shared end goal of eliminating tobacco-related disease and death?; (2) how can scientists who perpetuate polarized viewpoints be incentivized and supported to improve?; (3) to whom can junior scientists turn for help with navigating the polarization in the field?; and (4) how can the academic community avoid contributing to the polarization that seems to pervade the field?

2020, Apr 23 - Tobacco harm reduction: Past history, current controversies and a proposed approach for the future

  • To date, more attention has been paid on the virtues or vices of potential harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes with less focus on cigarettes, which prematurely kills half of its long-term consumers. Most in the tobacco control community would agree that an immediate main goal is to rapidly eliminate tobacco-related death and disease. To effectively achieve this goal, a more cohesive and unified approach is urgently needed before million more lives are lost to tobacco use.
  • Perhaps this approach could be achieved by convening yet another strategic dialogue on harm reduction that is led by one of the governmental agencies, a scientific organization and/or by respected scientists who are not strongly associated with one particular ideology. At this meeting, the current and evolving science, modeling that projects population health effects under different scenarios, identification of research gaps and consensus on a potential path towards a sensible and agreeable harm minimization approach can be developed. Keeping focus on how best to regulate combusted tobacco products and ANDS and allowing tobacco harm reduction as a component of a comprehensive tobacco control program would be one such approach.

2018 Caught in the middle: early career researchers, public health and the emotional production of research

  • In this short report, I discuss how public health research, its assessment, and its dissemination outside the academy are produced, in part, through emotional circumstances. Using current debates on e-cigarettes as an example, I show that researchers find themselves uncomfortably positioned in complicated moral and affective landscapes, often making it difficult to represent the nuance of their research.
  • Mair and Kierans (2007, p. 109) warned us some time ago that: ‘adopting any normative stance towards tobacco, whether pro- or anti-, would actually interfere with our capacity to document and interpret the significance of tobacco in the lives of those we study’. This statement transfers to the contemporary e-cigarette situation.

Lawmakers / Public Officials

2021 Mar 23 - Lawmakers ask gov’t to repeal ‘unlawful’ CSC circular against tobacco companies

  • (Referring to influence from out of country NGO's) "We should not be misdirected by these interest-groups that instead of helping our country in our time of need, work to set us against each other."

Tobacco Control / Public Health

2021, Mar 29 Letters to the Editor (see letter #2): Vaping and Philanthropy: Debating Strategies That Work

  • Written By: Eric N. Lindblom, Senior Scholar, O’Neill Institute for National & Global Health Law, Georgetown University Law Center
  • Lindblom was director of the Office of Policy at FDA’s Center for Tobacco Products from 2011 to 2014.
  • Mark Gunther’s article on Bloomberg’s funding of efforts to prevent youth e-cigarette use did a good job presenting the current conflicts in the public-health community about e-cigarettes and how best to regulate them. But it did not suggest any ways those conflicts might be resolved or, perhaps, made less important.
  • Given the common, overriding goal of reducing tobacco-nicotine deaths and harms as quickly as possible, there are many new tobacco-control policies that all sides of the e-cigarette conflict should be able to agree on and actively support.
  • Even those arguing for stronger restrictions on e-cigarettes could at a minimum agree that government tax and price measures should not make e-cigarettes more expensive than smoked tobacco products.
  • Another possible consensus antismoking strategy might not raise any significant conflicts, even if it were extended to e-cigarettes (or to all tobacco products). That is requiring that all tobacco products be sold only in adult-only sales outlets.
  • To promote switching from smoking to vaping (without any downside risks), even those opposing an e-cigarette harm-reduction approach should also be able to agree that all sales outlets that sell smoked tobacco products should be required to offer e-cigarettes, as well (but not vice versa).

2021, Mar 4 - Cliff Douglas Manifesto: It is Time to Act with Integrity and End the Internecine Warfare Over E-Cigarettes

  • "I urge all of us in the tobacco control community to climb out of the bunker, come to the table, and try to genuinely work together. Stop skirting the truth when it feels inconvenient and open your minds and ears to all of the science that is before us. But the same goes for my other community, with whom I agree regarding the evidence-based promise of THR, but which also bears some responsibility for the adversarial nature of the relationship and for not consistently acknowledging areas of ambiguity or concern, including significant rates of experimentation with vaping by youth and youth-oriented marketing by some segments of the vaping industry. We won’t come together if we don’t come together."

2020 - E-Cigarettes, Harm Reduction, and Tobacco Control: A Path Forward?

  • "Consider that in the few minutes it took to review the points in this Commentary, approximately 25 Americans and 300 people worldwide died of complications arising from their use of combusted tobacco. This is a toll that should be unacceptable to all of us, no matter where one stands on the issues presented here. We should not and can not continue to engage in the divisive and shameful conflict that the e-cigarette era has visited upon the tobacco-control community; the lives of too many people are at stake. We can and must do better and move on to the combusted tobacco endgame."

2018 - How to Think—Not Feel—about Tobacco Harm Reduction

  • Taken literally, tobacco harm reduction—reducing the harms created by tobacco—is what everyone in tobacco control wants to accomplish. But, the term “tobacco harm reduction” (THR) has become the source of one of the most divisive, often acrimonious debates in tobacco control history. Intense emotions, on both sides, have obstructed objective consideration of complicated THR issues.
  • Participants on both sides of the divisive THR debate need to examine the complicated issues and evidence more objectively. This entails considering both the potential benefits and costs associated with reduced-risk products like e-cigarettes.
  • THR can be a complement to, not a substitute for, evidenced-based tobacco control interventions. Tobacco control professionals need to focus on objective assessment of and discussion about the potential costs and benefits of THR.
  • Importantly, we need to assess that evidence in a fair and objective manner, and to move forward together toward the elimination of tobacco’s harms. That, after all, is the THR goal shared by every single tobacco control professional.

2016 - Mitch Zeller (FDA/CTP) - The E-Cig Debate Has Been Detrimental to Harm Reduction

  • Zeller went on to discuss the all-too-familiar argument about the potential pros and cons of e-cigs and vaping, wondering if tobacco-control groups and vaping advocates were “having the wrong debate.”
  • “The e-cig debate has been emotional, divisive and is not advancing common ground on harm reduction,” he said. “Where and how can we apply the principle of harm reduction to this debate and find common ground? It’s been horribly ineffective to date.
  • “Part of the challenge with tobacco-control groups and public-health advocates is a historic distrust of the tobacco industry,” he continued. “Every sector has a role to play (in finding common ground).”

2016 - FDA's Zeller: Let's Reframe Debate to Focus on Nicotine

  • Explaining this in more depth, the CTP director said "looking at nicotine differently" starts with addressing a few key points:
    • Recognize there is a continuum of nicotine-containing products;
    • Understand people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar; and
    • Acknowledge the public health opportunity to move tobacco users down the risk spectrum.
  • "Are we having the wrong debate? For me, yes. The debate has been about e-cigarettes. It should be about nicotine," he said, adding that "someone needs to step up to the plate" and reframe the debate. Once that is successfully done, the nicotine debate needs to center on some critical questions, according to Zeller. These include: What is the longer-term use for those who need it? Is there a potential need for a period of dual use and, if so, for how long? What are the unintended consequences? Where does the principle of harm reduction come in?

2015 - A Proposed Collaboration Against Big Tobacco: Common Ground Between the Vaping and Public Health Community in the United States

  • An unfortunate conflict is underway between the public health community and the vaping community over e-cigarettes' harmfulness or lack thereof. This conflict is made worse by an information vacuum that is being filled by vocal members on both sides of the debate. This conflict is avoidable; common ground exists. If both groups rally around what is in their own and the public's best interest-the end of combustible tobacco--all will benefit significantly. If not, the result may be missed opportunities, misguided alliances, and--ultimately-poorer public health.

Tobacco Harm Reduction / Other Harm Reduction Backgrounds

2021 Apr 2: Comment by Alex Wodak to blog by Clive Bates: Holding the Bloomberg anti-vaping propaganda complex to account

  • "If US Government and Taliban can sit down and try to negotiate an end to military activities in Afghanistan then supporters and opponents of tobacco harm reduction should be capable of a polite and respectful discussion to identify and expand common ground. After all, both want to see a worldwide substantial and rapid reduction in smoking related deaths. Need to be carefully planned and have excellent Chair. How about it?"
  • Alex Wodak Bio: "Dr Alex Wodak is a physician who was Director of the Alcohol and Drug Service, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney (1982-2012) but has now retired. Major interests include prevention of HIV among people who inject drugs, prevention of alcohol problems and drug policy reform. Dr. Wodak is President of the Australian Drug Law Reform Foundation and was President of the International Harm Reduction Association (1996-2004). He helped establish the first needle syringe programme and the first supervised injecting centre in Australia when both were pre-legal and often works in developing countries on HIV control among among people who inject drugs. Dr Wodak helped establish the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre, the Australian Society of HIV Medicine and the NSW Users AIDS Association."


  • "Human rights activists and health workers in Uganda have embarked on a Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) campaign aimed at reducing or minimizing harm or risks suffered by people and communities as a result of using tobacco products."
  • "He stressed that the THR advocacy is not going to fight or conflict with the on going government programs, but to raise an intellectual conversation seeking a deeper understanding of THR and nicotine."

2018: Joe Gitchell How to feel AND think about nicotine and those who use it

Tobacco Industry

2021: Finding ‘common ground’ on shifting sands: observations on the conflicts over product regulation

  • Commentary by: Dr. Moira Gilchrist, Vice President Strategic and Scientific Communications and Mr. Antonio Ramazzotti, Vice President Consumer Insights
  • We do not speak for the entire tobacco industry, but we do speak for Philip Morris International.
  • Businesses—and what they make—change over time because of scientific and technological advancements. In any other sector, it is unthinkable that companies with valuable expertise would be excluded from discussions on the development, commercialization and regulation of innovative technologies that fulfil consumer demand and improve lives.
  • There is an alternative to the author’s suggested common ground: listening to the needs, wants and opinions of people who smoke. They are the ultimate decision-makers. They will decide what course of action they want to take, provided they are empowered to do so by science-based regulation.

2019: Philip Morris International: time for a new conversation

"By demonising a company that is doing exactly as the Editors demand, we might never know exactly how much of an opportunity a tobacco harm-reduction strategy will bring to public health. The only losers if this happens will be the men and women who continue to smoke."

The Science of Disputes and Negotiations

2019: Civil Dialogue on Tobacco, Nicotine, and Alternative Products Harm Reduction

  • 10. Engagement and Dialogue: Encourage Civil Dialogues with Broad Stakeholder Involvement
    • There is a need for greater civil engagement between a growing number of stakeholders and experts that includes governmental agencies, public health organizations, tobacco, nicotine and alternative product manufacturers, researchers, consumers, health care professionals, laboratory testing facilities, retailers and wholesalers, and agricultural interests. Engagement should be encouraged in both public and private sector venues.

Minors, Moral Psychology, and the Harm Reduction Debate: The Case of Tobacco and Nicotine

Understanding the origins of anger, contempt, and disgust in public health policy disputes: Applying moral psychology to harm reduction debates

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