Former WHO Director: Harm reduction saves lives

Nicotine pouches and other alternative products should be given more prominence when the WHO discusses tobacco harm reduction. That is what Derek Yach – the former director of the WHO’s Tobacco Free Initiative – writes in the British scientific journal The Lancet.

Harm reduction is a natural part of the WHO’s definition of tobacco control, but it has been overshadowed by loud calls for even more regulation. According to Derek Yach, these bans undermine the access of millions of people to safer alternative products.

The WHO Framework Convention was developed based on the research and knowledge of the time, but Yach argues that the Convention has not been adapted and updated to reflect new findings. Simply continuing on the same track without taking harm reduction into account is not only expensive but also downright dangerous. Yach points out that 120 million people already use alternative nicotine products that appear to improve quit attempts compared to nicotine replacement therapy.

Smokers and other tobacco users will live shorter and less healthy lives if nothing is done, says Yach, who in addition to his top job at the WHO also founded the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World.

Yach advocates careful regulation and expanded harm reduction strategies to potentially save 100 million premature deaths between 2025 and 2060.

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