This year marks the eighth annual Global Forum on Nicotine, which gathered experts from around the globe to discuss the future of harm reduction.
Here’s what happened on the first day…
Science and Politics: an often fractious relationship
The first day of the conference kicked off with Fiona Patten, Australian MP and leader of the Reason Party, speaking about the clash between science and politics around vaping in Australia.
“If Australia took on a more permissive approach to vaping we would probably save 20,000 lives immediately.
“Somehow, when it comes to the logical facts about vaping, policymakers choose to ignore them and say: ‘make up your own mind’.”
Fiona Patten MP
Patten celebrated the UK’s approach to harm reduction, praising it for including vaping in its campaigns and calling for the Australian Government to follow suit.
“We need to pump up our lobbying and challenge candidates at elections.
“To all the vapers that vote: we will get there.”
Fiona Patten MP
Science: orthodoxy, challenges and dissent
The next event was a discussion panel focusing on how conflicts of interest can result in biased scientific research.
Cardiologist and passionate vape supporter Konstantinos Farsalinos said he felt ‘offended’ by the way the research process has been weaponised against e-cigarettes in the past, arguing:
“It’s becoming a moral and political debate rather than a scientific one.”
Physicist Roberto Sussman added that much of scientific research has become guided by political objectives and cuts corners to fast-track the process.
Similarly, Brad Rodu denounced much of the research process in the US as a ‘set-up’, comparing research universities to businesses in how they are often driven by funding.
Lifestyle regulations expert Michelle Minton said:
“All over the Judeo-Christian, European-based world is the idea that if something is pleasurable, it must be bad.
“Things like vaping or snus are pleasurable, and people who have a moralistic view of what health is, find that to be unacceptable.”
Who uses nicotine and why?
Another panel explored the stigma attached to nicotine dependence.
Charles Gardner, Executive Director of INNCO, explained that many smokers are from marginalised groups and may face further discrimination for using cigarettes.
“Now the same stigma is being conveyed to people who vape.”
“I think it’s reprehensible and it needs a big rethink.”
Charles Gardner, INNCO
Sairah Salim-Sartoni of JUUL Labs argued that “we have to meet smokers where they are” and provide them with a variety of ways to quit.
She also emphaised the importance of accurate and accessible messaging about THR products.
Polish scientist Miroslaw Dworniczak of the New Nicotine Alliance said:
“I’m so envious, because in the United Kingdom you have PHE and the Royal College of Physicians and their information is loud and clear.
“In Poland, most of the information is that nicotine causes cancer and that it’s evil.”
Miroslaw Dworniczak, NNA
Bengt Wiberg, developer of Sting Free Snus, was also in attendance, and praised Swedish vape shops for effectively being ‘THR pharmacies’.
Investment in Nicotine Innovation: risks and rewards for public health
The final talk of the day was on the tobacco industry’s investment in harm reduction products.
Business analyst Jonathan Fell called for an end to hostility towards tobacco companies who are launching their own e-cigarette products, arguing that on the topic of THR, he trusts these firms more than the anti-vaping WHO or EU.
Professor David Sweanor added that the ‘cartoonish caricature’ of Big Tobacco was not useful when looking at policy, and argued the way forward is for countries to stop imposing bans on e-cigarettes.
“What incentive do you have to try to come up with a less hazardous product when countries like India not only decide to ban the alternatives, but the World Health Organization gives them a reward for doing so?”
GFN 2021 continues today (June 17) at 11.45am.