Tobacco policy should be health driven and science backed, say respiratory health experts

Tobacco policy should be health driven and science backed, say respiratory health experts - article image

Last updated: 23 January, 2024

The European Respiratory Society (ERS) is urging global policymakers to support and adopt tobacco policies that are health driven and science backed. 

The statement comes ahead of next month’s Tenth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP10) on the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. Taking place in Panama from 5–10 February, COP10 brings together parties and policymakers to discuss and make decisions to protect people from the health, social, economic, and environmental consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure. 

ERS is a leading international body in the field of respiratory health, medicine and science. It advocates for the improvement of lung health and is active on the topic of tobacco as a major cause of respiratory disease – frequently issuing recommendations and position statements grounded in scientific research. 

The ERS Tobacco Control Committee Chair Dr Filippos Filippidis noted that whilst recent developments indicate that more countries may take firmer positions on tobacco control, he urges a globally unified response. 

“We see the UK now proposing much firmer policy on tobacco and tobacco products – aiming for a smoke free generation. This is positive, but we strongly urge policymakers from all countries to have a unified response to tobacco – that every effort should be made to eliminate tobacco and tobacco related products, or we may see further health disparities emerge.” 

Focusing in on agenda items announced for the COP10 event, ERS has specifically urged policymakers to: 

  • Recognise that novel tobacco products, vaping products or heated tobacco products (HTPs) should not be confused as “harm reduction” strategies or public health interventions, due to lack of evidence to support their effectiveness as smoking cessation tools and potential implications for public health (COP10 agenda items 6.1 and 6.3) 
  • Support effective regulatory measures to restrict HTPs while continuing to support those who want to quit smoking (COP10 agenda item 6.1) 
  • Recognise the need to hold the tobacco industry liable for the harms caused by its products, and not allow the tobacco industry’s marketing of “harm reduction” products to detract attention from this (COP10 agenda item 6.5) 
  • Encourage consideration of forward-looking measures to rapidly reduce prevalence of smoking, including Tobacco Endgame policies such as raising the age of sale to 21 years, which is considered a milestone in the journey towards eventual phase out of tobacco sales and a tobacco free generation (COP10 agenda item 6.4) 

Dr Filippidis added: “The fact that the tobacco industry has been able to market their products as if they are part of harm reduction strategies shows incredible gaps in regulation which need to be addressed.

“It’s time for policymakers to make the right decisions on tobacco – worldwide.”