Media release - 16 April 2021

Four million smoking-related deaths a year - yet potential solutions 
to Asia’s tobacco crisis blocked, reveals new GSTHR briefing

  • Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Burning Issue for Asia, focuses on region most severely affected by public health impacts of tobacco;
  • Free online event on Sunday 18 April set to discuss report findings and regional barriers to tobacco harm reduction with leading regional commentators;
  • Research reveals huge disparity between the number of smokers and number of vapers in Asia - and argues for the scale-up of harm reduction alternatives.

Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Burning Issue for Asiaby the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction (GSTHR), reveals the terrible toll of the tobacco crisis in Asia. 6 in 10 of the world’s smokers and 9 in 10 users of dangerous oral smokeless tobacco (SLT) live in the region. Almost half the global deaths from smoking are in Asia: a devastating loss of four million people every year, and evidence of the continued failure of current tobacco control measures and the need for new, pragmatic solutions. The short report will be formally launched at a free online event, co-hosted by the GSTHR and Association of Vapers India, with leading regional advocates and tobacco harm reduction experts this Sunday 18 April.

Tobacco harm reduction (THR) allows people to quit smoking or using SLT by switching to safer nicotine products. Compared to smoking or SLT, vaping devices (e-cigarettes), heated tobacco products (HTP) and pasteurised oral products enable people to continue using nicotine at a fraction of the risk. The new briefing shows that Asia has been at the forefront of several key THR successes - the first vaping device was developed by a Chinese scientist and in Japan, cigarette sales have slumped by 32% since the introduction of HTP.

Yet many governments in Asia have actually limited or prohibited people’s access to SNP, while deadly cigarettes and SLT remain freely on sale. Tobacco Harm Reduction: A Burning Issue for Asia explores the obstacles to THR in the region, including the role of significant state involvement or ownership of tobacco companies, the misinformation campaign against safer nicotine products from apparently credible international agencies, and the influence of US-led philanthropic funding on domestic policy-making around tobacco and nicotine.

For the first time, the report reveals the huge disparity between the number of smokers in Asia at 743 million and the number who have switched to vaping. Research carried out for the report estimates there are 19 million people using vaping products in Asia in 2021 - meaning there are 39 smokers for every vaper in the region. Tobacco harm reduction must be scaled up - and fast.

On Sunday 18 April from 10am UK/14:30 India/16:00 Thailand/17:00 Hong Kong, the findings of the report will be discussed by author Harry Shapiro of the GSTHR and five leading regional commentators and advocates, Nancy Loucas (The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates, New Zealand), Samsul Kamal Arrifin (Malaysian Organization of Vape Entity), Joaqui Gallardo (Vaper AKO, Philippines), Asa Saligupta (ENDs Cigarette Smoke Thailand) and Samrat Chowdhery (Association of Vapers India and the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations). To join the event, co-hosted with Association of Vapers India, register at https://events.gsthr.org.

Harry Shapiro, the report author, invited people to join the discussion ahead of the launch:
“Tobacco harm reduction is truly a burning issue for Asia. Many of Asia’s millions of smoking-related deaths are preventable - if only consumers had access to safer nicotine products. Unfortunately, the failing WHO FCTC and a barrage of misinformation and anti-THR propaganda is getting in the way of public health progress in the region. Join me and our panel for the event on Sunday 18 April, and take part in the discussion.”

Watch a series of short video responses to the briefing from Sunday's panel.