DDN September 2023 DDN September_2023_v2 | Page 30

DDN visited the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw to hear about the challenges of mainstreaming tobacco harm reduction



arlier this year we looked at tobacco harm reduction and observed that smoking still causes
8m deaths a year . Why had there been so many false starts on finding safer ways to use nicotine ? Despite brilliant innovations and the launch of safer products – thanks to consumer-driven breakthroughs in tobacco harm reduction ( THR ) – we learned about inertia in public health , varying resistance through global politics , conflicts within the tobacco industry , and confusion surrounding tobacco control organisations , who resisted the notion that safer nicotine products could be used recreationally ( DDN , February 2023 ).
So when DDN was invited to the tenth Global Forum on Nicotine ( GFN ), it seemed like an interesting opportunity to see key players in active debate . As the event ’ s co-founder Paddy Costall
said , ‘ Ours is the only conference in the smoking , tobacco and nicotine arena that welcomes all the players involved in tobacco harm reduction – consumers , regulators , parliamentarians , manufacturers and scientists – with no bans on who can attend or who can speak .’
A SENSE OF OPTIMISM The event was born from a sense of optimism , said cofounder Prof Gerry Stimson . ‘ We thought we were on the cusp of a breakthrough , and that with safer nicotine products , millions of premature deaths from smoking could be avoided . If played right , we felt sure that harm reduction for tobacco could be a huge individual and public health success .’ The last ten years had been a challenge , with regulators , parliamentarians and legislators changing the pace of progress . But he still remained confident that ‘ it ’ s not a matter of whether
tobacco harm reduction will happen , but when ’.
Fifty ‘ thought leaders ’ from the field were invited to speak .
They looked at the milestones of the last ten years , assessed a complex political , regulatory and scientific environment , and debated the challenges of the future . The flavour of the event was energetic and respectful , and characterised by a willingness to listen . Despite the great divide between countries that were being constrained by poor policy and regulatory obstacles and those buoyed by a wave of progress and consumer interest , there was a sense that sharing the science could translate into helpful take-home messages . There were bound to be more questions than answers . A session called ‘ The Big THR Conversation ’, chaired by UK public health expert Clive Bates , asked : How can the last decade influence and inform the next ?’
‘ Nicotine doesn ’ t cause cancer and when we make people realise this then we can discuss lower levels of harm of the products .’
What are the dynamics ? What causes success or failure ? Why does the World Health Organization ( WHO ) do what it does ? Why is the science a mess ? Why is there such indifference to that ? What role should the industry play ? How do we see the world of nicotine in 15-20 years ?
ENTRENCHED POSITIONS As delegates from different countries gave their thoughts , we heard about narratives
Photography : GFN