Disinformation which is being shared through the various social media platforms is responsible for the negative reception of tobacco harm-reduction products across the world.
The concept of tobacco harm reduction was introduced to mitigate the damage that is caused by cigarette smoking which includes cardiovascular disease, and lung cancer among many others.
Currently, there are two leading alternatives available in the tobacco harm reduction sphere and these are e-cigarettes and heated tobacco devices.
Heated tobacco devices heat real tobacco within a specific temperature range, using an electronic heat-control system.
E-cigarettes on the other hand vaporize an e-liquid solution containing nicotine and flavours when a user draws on it.
Harm-reduction products are seen as the alternative to smoking, however, due to disinformation, most people who would have potentially been the targeted users have been denied correct information.
According to Tommaso Di Giovanni recently, there are an estimated 1 billion-plus smokers in the world, and they should be provided with access and information about smoke-free alternatives.
However, discussions about harm-reduction alternatives or smoke-free alternatives have not been given a fair chance.
Dr Tendai Mhizha blames technology platforms that have enabled the creation and rapid dissemination of more sophisticated and dangerous forms of distortions.
She believes these distortions from disinformation have resulted in governments across the world enacting policies that disfavour the harm reduction alternatives.
‘’Disinformation is not limited to elections, but also spread to many topics from personal defamation, sales information and catfishing to issues such as the Russian-Ukraine war, Covid-19 and its vaccines and tobacco as well.
‘’There has been a lot of disinformation surrounding the topic of nicotine and the alleged negative effects that e-cigarettes have on the body. This has led to policies that disfavour harm-reduction products and discussion that completely denies their benefits.
‘’Furthermore, many governments across the world are now regulating nicotine harm reduction products in a fashion that is disproportionate to the risks associated with them.
‘’For example, in countries like India and Australia government policies are more antagonistic to life-saving harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes and vapes than to deadly combustibles,’’ she said.
Philip Morris International (PMI) believes common sense must prevail in the tobacco harm reduction debate, arguing that we are now in a world that is heightened by innovation and awareness.
‘’Ignoring it means preventing millions of adult smokers from switching to a smoke-free product that is scientifically substantiated to be less harmful than cigarette smoking.
‘’PMI believes that with the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society for tobacco harm reduction, cigarette sales can end within 10 to 15 years in many countries.
‘’Smoke-free products are actively accelerating the decline in cigarette smoking beyond what can be achieved by tobacco control policy alone,’’ said the organization.