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Asian group pushes tobacco harm reduction as human right

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An Asia-Pacific consumer advocacy group has supported the petition asking the Taiwanese government to recognize tobacco harm reduction as a human right in line with the goal for Smoke-Free Taiwan 2040.

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) said it is supporting the initiative of Taiwan Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (TTHRA) which filed a petition calling upon the government of Taiwan to allow tobacco harm reduction products as part of the key strategy for tobacco control.

Tobacco harm reduction is a public health strategy that aims to provide alternatives to reduce risks caused by smoking cigarettes.  Such alternatives include innovative technology-aided electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes, Swedish snus, and heat-not-burn tobacco products.

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Numerous scientific studies have shown that the harms of these products represent less than 5 percent or just a fraction of the health risks of combustible tobacco.  Unlike combustible cigarettes which are being linked to 20,000 deaths a day globally, THR products do not produce smoke because they deliver nicotine by heating, and not burning, tobacco. 

Nancy Loucas, the executive coordinator of CAPHRA, said that no less than the World Health Organisation Western Pacific Region Office (WHO-WPRO) recommended that countries regulate vaping/ENDS in order to protect public health.

"This aligns with the WHO declaration that health is a fundamental human right and that individuals should be given the right to determine their right to advance and protect their own well-being," Loucas said.

CAPHRA is a regional association that supports national organizations promoting tobacco harm reduction such as TTHRA and Vapers Philippines. TTHRA, representing Taiwan, is a member of CAPHRA and works with the European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA), the Korea Harm Reduction Association (KHRA) and Australian Tobacco Harm Reduction Association (ATHRA) by introducing international THR information into Taiwan with the hope of using the THR strategy to strengthen the specific actions of tobacco control mechanism in Taiwan.

Loucas said, "the refusal of the government of Taiwan to recognize the concept of tobacco harm reduction, including the use of ENDS in the fight against tobacco harm, goes against both of these declarations by WHO and puts the people of Taiwan at a disadvantage in making self-determination decisions around their health."

Yu-Yang Wang of TTHRA said that while international groups are still debating over the ban or regulation of vaping/ENDS, the latest report from the WHO in 2020 shows support for the regulation of these smoke-free nicotine products.

The United Nations also stated that, “raising vaping/ENDS tax and protecting the people can bring a win-win situation for the government. 

The WHO declared health as a basic human right on International Human Rights Day 2017. "The WHO report stated that vaping should be regulated to protect public health.  That’s why I initiated a petition on National Development Council to promote the goal for Smoke-Free Taiwan 2040," Wang said.

Wang made the appeal as Taiwan and other countries prepare to celebrate World No Tobacco Day on May 31st.  This year's theme is "protecting young people from tobacco industry manipulation and preventing them from using tobacco and nicotine".

Foundation for a Smoke-Free Taiwan (FSFT) said a smoke-free country means that "the prevalence of cigarette smoking is less than 5 percent of the national population." 

New Zealand is expected to reach the smoke-free target by 2025, the United Kingdom by 2030 and Canada by 2035. FSFT hopes that Taiwan can achieve it by 2040. 

"For the goal of smoke-free Taiwan, we will continue to introduce information from the WHO, governments around the world, and foundation for a smoke-free world into Taiwan. We hope that the Tobacco Hazards Prevention Act of Taiwan will be in line with international standards to protect the health of the people and children," Wang said.

Meanwhile, VAPE Taiwan Inc. which also promotes "Smoke-Free Taiwan", expressed hope that more Taiwanese people will understand the latest trends and actions of international tobacco control.


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