We need to be serious about making smoking obsolete’—suggests UK public health advocate 

Renowned global public health advocate, Clive Bates contends that unless the world was serious enough about making smoking obsolete the current either prevention, or cessation only approach and measures are bound to fail.

Non-combustible cigarette smoking is the answer
Combustible tobacco smoking affects non-smokers

Bates, who is Director of Counterfactual Consulting Ltd, said this during the Virtual E-Cigarette Summit 2020 — an independent platform for scientists, policymakers, medical and public health professionals to come together and look at the latest developments and scientific research on smoke-free products.

The summit also discussed the most effective public health strategies to reduce smoking-related diseases.

In a provocatively titled panel ‘What if we were serious about making smoking obsolete?’, Bates said several countries have proposed smoke-free targets, including New Zealand and Ireland which set their goals for 2025 but “they are certain to fail”.

Another great example, according to Bates, of countries that are moving based on tobacco harm reduction science, is England  that recently made a commitment that by 2030 t smoked tobacco will become obsolete.

Public health authorities and regulators “ now have to fill in the blanks as to what should be done to bring this about”.

He goes on to suggest that perhaps if the people involved in helping to achieve these targets, such as ex-smokers, were paid as an incentive so that their livelihoods depended on meeting the goal, we would actually make more progress.

That, Bates said, can spur such people to be more aggressive in their advocacy to eradicate combustible tobacco smoking completely and even campaign for alternative smoke-free tobacco products.

He also suggested introducing a “grand masterstroke like a cigarette prohibition”, which would obviously be met with strong public resistance but it could be a solution worth exploring in.

Bates, went on to presenting his 10-point program  to further a tobacco harm reduction agenda such as lifting the ban on oral tobacco, also known as Snus, the first tobacco product to be recognised by the US Food and Drug Administration as harm reducing when compared to smoking, and to properly regulate smokeless tobacco sticks.

Years of innovations by the manufacturers led to the development, assessment and commercialization-cigarettes heated tobacco products that do not produce smoke, and have the potential to pose less risk to consumers..

These innovative products are meant for smokers who would otherwise continue to smoke.

Bates also suggests replacing bans on advertising of vaping products with controls on messages and their placement as well as replacing blanket bans on advertising of reduced-risk tobacco products.

He also suggests the replacement of excessive and inappropriate warnings on non-combustible tobacco products with accurate communication of relative risk to consumers.

Then Bates adds that there is need to rethink the approach to pack inserts for both vaping products and cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to better smoke-free products.

Bates has had a diverse career in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors and from 1997-2003 he was director of UK’s Action on Smoking and Health — campaigning to reduce the harm caused by smoking.

In 2003, he joined British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s Strategy Unit as a civil servant and worked in senior roles in the public sector and for the United Nations in Sudan.

Counterfactual is a consulting and advocacy practice focused on a pragmatic approach to sustainability and public health.

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