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Asia-Pacific ministers urged to push for tobacco harm reduction policy in WHO meeting

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A panel of experts urged the ministers of nine Asia-Pacific countries to push for tobacco harm reduction as a core policy in the Ninth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP9) to the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO-FCTC) which will be held in The Hague, Netherlands in November 2020.

The Expert Advisory Group of the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) reminded the health, commerce/trade, tourism and finance ministers of the nine countries that the WHO-FCTC had repeatedly failed to pursue its mandate of identifying tobacco harm reduction (THR) as a core tobacco control policy.

The CAPHRA experts sent the letter to the top ministers of Australia, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand where cigarette smoking continues to cause deaths and diseases among large segments of their population.

The panel of experts said more than a decade of evidence has established the potential of innovative technology-aided THR products such as snus, electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) or e-cigarettes and electronically-heated or heat-not-burn tobacco products to combat the rise of combustible tobacco use and its associated harm.

Experts said these less harmful smoke-free products offer smokers the best way to quit.  This is because it has been known for decades that tar, and carcinogens found in tobacco smoke, cause the death and disease associated with smoking, and not nicotine.

"Governments continue to implement policy measures that are harming the potential for current tobacco consumers to switch to reduced risk modes of consumption of nicotine. Consumers are forced to ‘accelerate’ their harm rather than reduce them because of the restrictive options bestowed by these policies and the lack of widely available information from trusted sources," the experts said.

The experts said that across developing countries, national initiatives to promote access and affordable harm reduction tools for diverse tobacco consumers including women and vulnerable populations were negligible or woefully lacking.

"Governments are unable to gauge the shifts in the consumption patterns by consumers and are failing phenomenally to adapt to the emerging science and consumer behaviors too," they said.

"We deeply urge all parties to uphold 'right to health' and the implementation of tobacco harm reduction as a key strategy for tobacco control addressing the existing gaps. We add our voice in this movement against the failure of the governing bodies mired in unaccountability for their harmful actions against public health," the experts said.

The Expert Advisory Group of CAPHRA includes scientists, medical doctors, university professors, policy experts, and heads of scientific organizations.

To see the complete list of experts, please check this link: https://caphraorg.net/caphra-expert-advisory-group/

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