In a short report such as this, it is only possible to highlight some of the key issues surrounding THR and the availability of SNP in the region.
- Safer nicotine products – vaping products, heated tobacco products and US and Swedish style oral nicotine products are simply that – significantly safer than combustible tobacco and the regional varieties of SLT product found in Asia.
- Asia has the highest number of smokers (743 million) in the world and the highest number of SLT users (261 million). Over half of the smokers who die every year die in Asia.
- There is a huge disparity in the region between the number of people who smoke at 743 million and the number of people who use vaping products, at an estimated 19 million – a ratio of 39:1.
- Yet Asia has been at the forefront of a number of tobacco harm reduction success stories. A Chinese scientist made the world’s first commercially viable vaping device and China has become the world’s largest manufacturer of nicotine vaping products. Both Japan and South Korea have shown how smokers can be encouraged to switch away from cigarettes, with Japan experiencing dramatic falls in cigarette sales since the introduction of HTP.
- In some Asian countries, the government has a substantial stake in tobacco companies. The Chinese National Tobacco Corporation is the largest tobacco company in the world. The potential for conflicts of interest between in-country economic and health policies is self-evident. Looking to the future, these same companies could play a major role in the development, manufacture and promotion of safer nicotine products across the whole region.
- New safer nicotine products must be affordable and accessible, but also appropriate and acceptable to consumers, to embrace the wide social and cultural traditions and economic circumstances across Asia. Innovation in manufacturing processes may be required to create viable safer alternatives to traditional regional or country-specific tobacco products.
- Policymakers and legislators should exercise self-determination in reviewing the evidence of the public health benefits of safer nicotine products for their populations. Undue influence and interference from western-backed, anti-tobacco harm reduction lobbyists should be avoided and exposed.
- Tobacco harm reduction, using safer nicotine products, seeks to complement and not replace existing tobacco control policies. It provides more options for people who, for whatever reason, cannot quit using nicotine. It helps people switch away from more dangerous tobacco products.
- Bans or disproportionate regulation of safer products have the unintended consequence of keeping smokers and users of SLT in the grip of these more dangerous products.
- Allowing access to appropriately regulated safer nicotine products, manufactured either by state-owned or private companies, would be far better for individual and public health in Asia than leaving 743 million people to continue smoking and 261 million people to continue using dangerous SLT products. Access to SNP would help relieve the healthcare burden on governments trying to deal with smoking and smokeless tobacco-related disease.
- Finally – and it is a point worth repeating – there is currently a huge gap between the number of people using dangerous tobacco products and those using safer nicotine products in Asia. If the opportunities offered by safer nicotine products are embraced, there are potentially game-changing health gains for the region.