Professor Sweanor is Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of Ottawa / Chair of the Advisory Board at the Center for Health, Law, Policy and Ethics
I’ve spearheaded globally to reduce cigarette smoking and among those measures is understanding what’s causing the harm.
We’ve known since at least the work of Mike Russell in the 1970s that it isn’t the nicotine that people are seeking that is killing them; it’s the inhalation of smoke.
We’ve got a billion people who are going to die in the century from cigarette smoking. It’s because of inhaling smoke, we’ve got products for, they don’t have to inhale smoke.
The assumption that new technologies carry unknown risk guide much of the debate.
The focus tends to be on the unintended risk of new products rather than unintended benefits.
Another characteristic of the debate is the assumption that adopting new technologies comes with new risks while doing nothing is risk-free.
What we have is a public health catastrophe in terms of all the people who are becoming ill and dying as a result of smoking cigarettes.
A billion deaths a century, and how many of these lives could easily be changed simply by changing the delivery system?
The biggest declines that we’ve seen in cigarette smoking and thus the lowest rates that we see nationally of cigarette smoking are in places where people have had access to alternatives.
Sweden has the lowest rates of cigarette smoking and the lowest rates of tobacco-caused illness in the European Union.
We’re seeing countries that have access to vaping products see a more rapid decline in cigarette smoking.
Coming from people who are supposed to be anti-smoking groups, we’ve had all that misinformation, the innuendo, the conspiracy theories from people who are trying to oppose these products.
We have had to institutionalize misinformation from bodies like the World Health Organization.
WHO, an organization that used to be leading the efforts to reduce cigarette smoking, now seems really intent on trying to protect the cigarette business.
If we actually paid attention to Public Health principles and said we want to understand people’s lived experiences.
We use legislation, so people were truthfully informed but also that the lower-risk products were much less expensive than cigarettes and were more readily available than cigarettes.