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GTFN 2020: Sustainability and Innovation are crucially for the future of Tobacco Harm Reduction

Sep 25, 2020

What are the best practises the tobacco industry should follow to achieve a sustainable change through the innovation and regulation? This was the question that this year’s Global Tobacco and Nicotine Forum, GTFN 2020, focused on. The answers were presented by experts from innovative companies in the industry, non-governmental organizations, academia, and governments.

This was the eleventh edition of the Forum, which has started in 2008 in Rio de Janeiro. It has developed into a global exchange of views and ideas between public health experts, government officials, investors and the nicotine industry ever since. Due to the covid-19 epidemic, this year’s forum was held virtually, and from all indications, with great success. The speakers came from 23 different countries and drew over 1,400 attendees.

This year’s Forum was attended by writer and member of the House of Lords of the British Parliament Matt Ridley; MEP, Vice President of the International Trade Commission of the European Parliament, Juliu WinklerDerek Yach, President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World; Mitch Zeller, Director of the US Food and Drug Administration’s Tobacco Products Center (FDA) and Ian Paisley, MP for North Antrim, UK.Other notable panellists were Clive Bates, Director of Counterfactual; Konstantinos Farsalinos, research fellow at Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center; David Levy, professor of oncology at Georgetown University; Sally Satel, resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and psychiatry lecturer at Yale University; Marewa Glover, Director of the Centre of Research Excellence on Indigenous Sovereignty and Smoking; and Karl Fagerstrom, clinical psychologist at the Smokers Information Center in Sweden.

Among the presentations Kingsley Wheaton, Chief Marketing Officer of BAT Group (CMO),h gave a speech highlighting a significant change in the direction of tobacco-related policy development. He introduced business changes  promoting an emphasis on innovation and sustainability: “In establishing the relevant policies the efforts of each member of society pursued by the UN [United Nations] are required and need to be achieved.” [is this a direct quote? Seems awkard?] 

The four day event underlined the positive role of science and experience accumulated by the tobacco industry, providing evidence-based perspectives, differentiated regulation, freedom of innovation, participation and communication and responsible marketing.Several guidelines were presented.

“The GTFN is now a global event” stated Prof.Riccardo Polosa, Founder of the CoEHAR “The data show that if a valid less harmuful alternative is available, conventional cigarettes can be phased out soon. To accelerate this process, it is paramount to ensure the highest quality of research to lead to the right path for products innovation. Millions of smokers should have the right to choose to switch to less harmful products and to reduce the risk to their health, if they can’t stop smoking on their own”.

At one of the panels, Mr. Derek Yach, President of the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, announced the release of the Tobacco Transformation Index, which aims to accelerate the reduction of harm caused by tobacco use. The primary goals of the Index  are to promote the phase out of high-risk tobacco products and accelerate the  development of reduced-risk alternatives to consumers. The Index seeks to ensure consistencies in harm-reduction activities in worldwide markets with shared guidelines.

What became clearer  during  the discussions at GTNF 2000 is the importance of stressing that nicotine is not the cause of harm, but that it is combustion.. Therefore investors, policymakers, stakeholders, and smokers should act accordingly to end the use of combustion products and avoid millions of deaths.Efforts must be focused on the transition to non-combustion nicotine delivery.