In the realm of public health, smoking has long been a contentious issue. The well-documented health risks associated with tobacco use have led to concerted efforts worldwide to curb smoking rates and protect non-smokers from secondhand smoke. While these efforts have led to some progress in reducing smoking prevalence, the reality remains that many individuals choose to continue smoking.
Of course, quitting smoking is undoubtedly the ideal goal from a health perspective, it is, however, essential to acknowledge that some people want to continue smoking. Harm reduction strategies that encourage smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives can be a pragmatic approach to improve overall public health.
In the interest of public health, it is essential to strike a balance that also protects the rights of smokers. Smokers should have access to accurate information about the risks associated with smoking and the available alternatives
For a consumer base that is increasingly open to innovation made possible by advancements in scientific research and technology, alternatives have gained traction with smokers in recent years, as they work by heating tobacco or a liquid that contains nicotine, producing a vapor that is inhaled by users. More importantly, it eliminates the combustion of tobacco, which is responsible for the majority of harmful chemicals in cigarette smoke and that lead to the development of smoking related diseases.
Dr. Marwa Aly Al-Shamy, a respected Chest Diseases Consultant at Alexandria University Hospital, emphasizes the importance of informed choices for smokers who do not want to quit. “For individuals who choose to continue smoking, it is crucial to consider alternative low-risk, smoke-free products, such as heated tobacco options, nicotine pouches, vapes, e-cigarettes,” she states. “Scientific research has convincingly demonstrated that the majority of smoking-related harm stems from the combustion process inherent to cigarettes.”
She further elaborates on the potential of heated tobacco technology: “These innovations can reduce harmful emissions from traditional cigarette smoke by as much as 95%, offering a promising path to reduced harm. However, it’s essential to note that these alternatives are not entirely risk-free.”
“Smoking is a well-established health risk. Numerous research studies have underscored the dangers associated with this habit. Consequently, various organizations are dedicating significant efforts to implement harm reduction strategies in smoking, harnessing innovative technologies to make a difference.”
Dr. Al-Shamy’s insights underscore the significance of harm reduction in the pursuit of better health outcomes for individuals who wish to continue to smoke.
As Pakistan continues to work towards reducing smoking rates and safeguarding public health, it must also protect the rights of smokers and provide them with the knowledge and options they need to make informed choices.
Efforts should entail discouraging smoking while allowing for less harmful alternatives in case one chooses to continue smoking, so as to mitigate the risks associated with tobacco use. By striking a balance between public health goals and respecting individual rights, we can create a more inclusive and effective approach to addressing the complex issue of smoking.