Broughton's Chief Executive Officer, Chris Allen summarizes the highlights from Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN).
Many countries are taking positive steps toward tobacco harm reduction – but significant progress still needs to be made.
This was the consensus of the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw, which ran from June 16th to 18th and had the theme for 2022 of ‘Tobacco Harm Reduction – Here For Good’.
The three-day event provided an opportunity for all stakeholders involved in next generation, nicotine products – from consumers and public health experts to academics, manufacturers, and government officials – to debate new products and the regulations surrounding them.
For Broughton to continue to offer world-leading consultancy, attending events such as GFN is vital so that we can keep up to date with changes in product innovation, regulations, and the politics related to tobacco harm reduction in different countries around the world.
The opening session focused on the challenges associated with tobacco harm reduction in low and middle-income countries, where many forces, such as the perception of nicotine, regulation, cultural tobacco use, cost, and infrastructure, come into play.
There have undoubtedly been significant advances in tobacco harm reduction in many countries. However, it’s important to recognize that the harm caused by smoking is a global issue that cannot be overcome through prohibition or a one-size-fits-all approach.
ISonTech (International Symposium on Nicotine Technology), which ran alongside GFN, focused on the science and innovation behind non-combustible nicotine delivery methods. Recognizing that the traditional delivery mechanisms such as smoking cigarettes or chewing tobacco leaves are the source of harm, not the nicotine itself. This is well known and understood by most within the tobacco harm reduction industry; however, it’s still not recognized by the vast majority of the public and, unfortunately, many healthcare professionals.
Alongside well-known names such as PMI, Altria, and JUUL, attendees were introduced to companies showcasing new innovations, such as new nicotine pouch technology from Amplicon and their Freee product. Nicotine pouches are often considered ‘crude’ products compared to ENDS and HTP, but Amplicon’s product introduces bio-ceramic technology to create a sustained release of nicotine. Modern nicotine pouches have a high potential for reducing smoking rates on a global scale, especially when considering the challenges associated with cost and infrastructure within low and middle-income countries.
GFN also took the opportunity to discuss the potential therapeutic benefits of nicotine, with a panel discussion concluding that there was no significant evidence of potential long-term harm from nicotine. The panel shared data that when compared with the long-term harm from caffeine, there were considered to be no significant differences, and when nicotine was compared with alcohol, alcohol was seen as clearly more harmful to the individual and those around them.
It was interesting to explore the current conflict of options within the US, where different government departments are expressing diametrically opposing views on the potential for harm of tobacco products. While some departments continue to equate nicotine with tobacco-related diseases, one recent US government-funded study explores the potential positive impact of nicotine on individuals with memory loss or mild cognitive impairment. The study website clearly states, “nicotine does not cause cancer, heart disease, or respiratory illness. It’s the tar and thousands of other chemicals in cigarettes that do”. This is a message that needs to be reiterated around the world.
Other potential therapeutic benefits of nicotine, the panel discussed, included mood regulation and the potential to be used in conjunction with anti-depressants.
Overall, the underlying message of GFN was that many countries are taking positive steps toward tobacco harm reduction. However, there is still work to be done with more than one billion smokers worldwide, and a significant percentage of smokers still tragically suffering mortality or morbidity due to smoking.
The event was thought-provoking, and while there’s no doubt that organizations such as GFN have done a fantastic job of keeping their events going virtually through the recent pandemic, it was great to be there in person. Although the scientific content is the same, in-person events provoke more discussions and debate and, naturally, the ability to network and catch up with industry colleagues and friends we’ve missed interacting with in recent years.
Watch our video, 'Understanding total harm reduction for next generation nicotine delivery products'.
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