Press release | 13 October 2021 – for immediate release

Today the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR), a Knowledge·Action·Change (K·A·C) project, launches a new series of Briefing Papers ahead of the publication of its latest report, Fighting The Last War: The WHO and International Tobacco Control on 27 October.

The suite of new GSTHR publications aim to draw attention to, and challenge the direction of travel of, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Conference of the Parties 9 (COP 9), which is being held virtually in early November. FCTC agenda and briefing papers indicate the FCTC Secretariat and leadership are continuing to urge Parties against the adoption of tobacco harm reduction approaches that could help save millions of lives.

GSTHR Briefing Papers are set to offer analyses, commentaries or explainers on topics related to tobacco harm reduction and its role in combating the death and disease caused by smoking. Two are being published today, both with a focus on the forthcoming FCTC COP9. The first provides a brief overview of both the FCTC and the Conference of the Parties biennial meetings, explaining their role in global tobacco and nicotine policy - as well as highlighting some of the problematic elements of their current operation. A deeper analysis of these issues will be revealed when Fighting The Last War is published later in the month.

The second GSTHR Briefing Paper focuses on the UK’s potential leadership role at COP9. The UK has successfully implemented important aspects of a domestic tobacco harm reduction policy, while retaining a strong tobacco control record. Currently, the FCTC project does not reflect the UK approach - yet the UK is one of the most consistent and generous financial backers of both the FCTC and the WHO. At COP9, the paper argues, the UK must be prepared to take a strong line and advocate for policies it has enacted that are demonstrably increasing the numbers of people successfully quitting smoking.

These issues and more will be explored in depth in the GSTHR’s forthcoming report, to be published on 27 October at a hybrid launch event, free to attend online. In Fighting The Last War: The WHO and International Tobacco Control the report's author, Harry Shapiro, takes a close look at the history, development and often secretive processes of the FCTC COP, its early battles with the tobacco industry - and the range of influences shaping international tobacco control’s response to safer nicotine products in 2021.

The report launch will be broadcast on 27 October from the Kia Oval in London. Two roundtable sessions will be livestreamed from 11am BST, with time allowed for questions from those watching in the room and from afar. Will Godfrey (Filter magazine, UK/US) will host the first session, ‘The FCTC: past, present and future’, which features:

  • Harry Shapiro, K·A·C, report author (UK);
  • Derek Yach, Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, former WHO cabinet director and executive director for noncommunicable diseases and mental health (US);
  • Tom Gleeson, New Nicotine Alliance Ireland (Ireland).

The second session will be hosted by Jeannie Cameron (JCIC Consulting, UK) and will be centred on the ‘Challenges to making the FCTC an inclusive international framework convention’. Audience members will hear from:

  • Ethan Nadelmann, founder, Drug Policy Alliance (US);
  • Nataliia Toropova, Healthy Initiatives (Ukraine);
  • Professor Gerry Stimson, K·A·C (UK).

While offering a wide range of views and experiences, the presenters are united in their concern about WHO’s rejection of tobacco harm reduction using safer nicotine products and its role in combating smoking worldwide.

Speaking ahead of the event, Professor Gerry Stimson, Director of K·A·C and Emeritus Professor at Imperial College London, said:

“We’re gravely concerned by the WHO’s continued rejection of tobacco harm reduction. It already accepts harm reduction as a valid, evidence-based public health intervention for drug use and HIV/AIDS. Harm reduction is explicitly named as one of three tobacco control strategies in the opening lines of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Adoption could hasten the end of the public health crisis caused by smoking.

“Instead the WHO rejects and, worse, repeatedly misinforms the public about safer nicotine products, demonstrating a disregard both for the lives of over one billion adult smokers and the eight million deaths each year due to smoking. Parties to the FCTC must seize the opportunity at COP9 to consider evidence from countries where tobacco harm reduction is succeeding, including the UK, New Zealand, Sweden, Norway and Japan – and ask why the WHO and its influential financial backers are refusing to do the same.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

Registering for the launch ensures access to the report prior to the event. Please register directly at https://events.gsthr.org/. This website will also host the livestream.

Contact: For further information, to arrange interviews with presenters or to access an embargoed copy of the full report, please contact either Ruth Goldsmith at [email protected] or on +44 78 01 84 51 92 (until 21 October) or Oliver Porritt at [email protected] or on +44 79 30 27 99 16. Places at the Oval are limited due to COVID-19 restrictions. However, if media representatives wish to attend in person, please contact Ruth/Oliver to discuss.

About us: Knowledge·Action·Change (K·A·C) promotes harm reduction as a key public health strategy grounded in human rights. The team has over forty years of experience of harm reduction work in drug use, HIV, smoking, sexual health, and prisons. K·A·C runs the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR) which maps the development of tobacco harm reduction and the use, availability and regulatory responses to safer nicotine products, as well as smoking prevalence and related mortality, in over 200 countries and regions around the world. For all publications and live data, visit https://gsthr.org

Our funding: The GSTHR project is produced with the help of a grant from the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, an independent, US non profit 501(c)(3) which, under US law, must operate independently of its donors. The project and its outputs are, under the terms of the grant agreement, editorially independent of the Foundation.