Smoking is one of the leading preventable causes of deaths worldwide, accounting for nearly 8 million deaths each year.
Despite the well-known health risks associated with smoking, many individuals continue to smoke, and traditional tobacco products remain prevalent in many parts of the world including Pakistan.
Seeing that the number of smokers has not gone down in decades, scientists have delved into finding potentially less harmful alternatives for those who wish to continue smoking, these alternatives eliminate the process of combustion and work on the principle of heating the tobacco rather than burning it.
However, despite the potential of reducing smoking related harm of these products, they are widely demonized for being just as dangerous as cigarettes.
Alternatives to cigarettessuch as e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products, nicotine pouches, vapes are also not risk-free, but they can be better optionsfor reducing harm for adult smokers who switch to them entirely.
While quitting smoking altogether is the best way to reduce the risk of developing smoking related diseases, there are people who will continue to smoke and it is the existing smokers who deserve access to such novel tobacco products, and they should be encouraged to make the switch completely.
While less harmful alternatives are not risk-free, comparing them and treating them likecigarettes doesn’t make sense, especially when they’ve shown real world results in several countries around the world. Real world data from Japan showed a statistically significant decrease in the number of hospitalizations due toinfectious disease hospitalizations (IDH) and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) exacerbation after the introduction of Heated Tobacco Products in the country.
The country also saw an annual average decline of 9.5% in cigarette sales from 2015 to 2018.
Several regulatory bodies worldwide, including the US FDA, many countries in the European Union, and Health Canada, have granted authorization to novel tobacco products as a reduced-risk product in several markets.
While it is important to continue to study these novel tobacco products, it is equally important to accurately represent the available evidence to the consumer so they can make better choices for their health.
Misrepresenting the science behind alternative products can lead to confusion and fear among consumers and may deter smokers from trying potentially less harmful alternatives.
It is also crucial to ensure that consumers are made aware of the options that they have so that they can make informed decisions about their health.