The European Respiratory Society (ERS) said it cannot recommend tobacco harm reduction strategies and that there is no evidence alternative nicotine products are safe.
They say a reduced but continued exposure to toxicants is a “bad alternative to quitting smoking” and that harm reduction should be used for a minority of high-risk smokers rather than the general population.
In an editorial, the ERS Tobacco Control Committee said current health policies are based on “well-meaning but incorrect or undocumented claims or assumptions”.
The authors write: “It must be acknowledged that many health professionals, tobacco control professionals and decision-makers who recommend the harm reduction strategy have very good intentions.
“They focus on the smokers and see harm reduction as a pragmatic way of reducing the devastating health effects of the tobacco epidemic.
“However, good intentions must always be supported by strong evidence before large-scale implementation.
"Evidence on the safety and the effectiveness of alternative nicotine delivery products as a smoking cessation tool is still lacking, while use of nicotine-containing products is spreading to non-smokers, which is most alarming.”
The authors of the editorial list seven arguments detailing their position.
They say there is a lack of evidence that nicotine delivery products are effective or safe smoking cessation tools, dual use is frequent, and the devices may have a “unfavourable” net effect on society with non-smokers being tempted to vape.
They also say there are many other effective strategies to reduce smoking at a population level – which they call one of public health’s “greatest successes”.
They conclude: “Therefore, ERS strongly supports implementation of WorldHealth Organization’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which also provides regulation tonovel products, and cannot recommend tobacco harm reduction as a population-based strategy.”
But Professor John Britton, director of the UK Centre for Tobacco & Alcohol Studies and consultant in respiratory medicine at the University of Nottingham, said every argument made in the editorial was wrong.
Source: Irish Examiner, 5th December 2019