7 February, 2024
The European Respiratory Society (ERS) has issued an updated position statement on novel nicotine and tobacco products, maintaining that it cannot recommend “harm reduction” as a population-based strategy to reduce smoking and aid quitting. The statement outlines that there is not sufficient evidence to support the tobacco industry’s claim that such products contribute to “harm reduction”, and that such claims are simply exploited by the tobacco industry for financial gain.
Since the previous ERS statement on this topic was issued in 2019, understanding of novel tobacco products has grown, and accumulating evidence indicates that these products have the potential to contribute to the development of chronic respiratory and cardiovascular diseases in humans.
The updated statement continues to question the arguments for harm reduction, adding that evidence shows legitimate concern around the long-term health risks of novel products, and highlighting that much of the evidence around harm reduction comes from the tobacco industry, which has a track record of manipulating science to further financial interests.
ERS maintains a firm position that all nicotine and tobacco products are highly addictive and harmful, and that quitting smoking entirely is still the best option.
When cessation aids are required, it is preferable to use evidence-based interventions, such as Nicotine Replacement Therapy (NRT) or tobacco cessation medications. Evidence suggests that users of these products often continue to use traditional cigarettes concurrently, rather than using them as a replacement. Further to this, evidence highlights that even if it were true that novel tobacco products were helping existing smokers to quit, they also contribute to nicotine addiction and smoking uptake in young people, leading to much greater negative effect on a population level.
ERS spokesperson on this topic and Chair of the ERS Tobacco Control Committee Dr Filippos Filippidis emphasised:
“The argument that novel tobacco products contribute to “harm reduction” lacks sufficient independent evidence. Their potential lung damaging effects, and uptake amongst young people, means that ERS cannot support novel tobacco products and “harm reduction” as a population-based strategy.”