Quitting cigarettes is one of the hardest things to do, as many former and current smokers know from painful personal experience. Public health and politicians must do better to help smokers quit. 700,000 deaths per year in the EU should be enough of an incentive to make us rethink our current approach.
To effectively help smokers quit for good, three conditions must be met:
Firstly, smokers must be able to choose from as many options as possible to find out what smoking cessation method works best for them. People are different, and therefore different ways to give up smoking must be made available and affordable. For very few people (less than 4%), quitting with no help works. For a few, nicotine replacement therapy (such as nicotine gums or patches) works, and it turns out that for many people, new nicotine alternatives help them with quitting smoking once and for all. Those products range from vaping and heat-not-burn products to snus or nicotine pouches. What all these new forms have in common is that they separate nicotine consumption from the combustion of tobacco (which produces the vast majority of the toxicity of smoking), making them far less harmful than smoking cigarettes. Each one is different, each working best for each different person.
62% of smokers in France and 53% in Germany believe anti-smoking policies ignore how difficult it is to stop smoking. Clearly, smokers are not satisfied with traditional cessation methods and therefore look to vaping as a means of quitting
Secondly, we need a modern, open regulatory framework to fit these new alternatives. These new products are not the same as smoking. Hence, they must not be painted with the same regulatory brush. What we need instead is risk-based regulation. Vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking and, therefore, must not be treated the same way. Harm reduction must become a centrepiece of anti-smoking policies, like in the field of pharmaceutical drugs. Harm reduction follows practical strategies and solutions to reduce harmful consequences associated with using certain substances instead of an unrealistic `just quit´ approach. Encouraging smokers who are not able to or don’t want to quit smoking to switch to vaping is a best-case example of harm reduction.
Thirdly, smokers must have accurate information about the potential risks of different products to make decisions. The same applies to medical professionals who are working with those smokers. They need to know the facts to make a lasting difference for smokers.
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