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Lifestyle

What is 'harm reduction' — and could it work for tobacco?

By switching to smoke-free products you can reduce the harmful negative impact of your habit on yourself, others and even the environment, says UnSmoke SA

Through Unsmoke SA, Philip Morris SA aims to share accurate information about the science behind smoke-free alternatives.
Through Unsmoke SA, Philip Morris SA aims to share accurate information about the science behind smoke-free alternatives.
Image: Supplied/Philip Morris SA

Changes to regulations and advances in science and technology have changed the way we live. Using these advances to reduce the negative effects of our potentially harmful behaviour is known as "harm reduction".

The more the concept of harm reduction becomes integrated into our everyday lives, the greater the benefit not only for ourselves but also for others and even the environment.

For instance, it's well known that there’s danger in exposing yourself to too much sunshine. While the safest option of all may be to never sunbathe, there are many innovations from sunglasses to sunscreen that are designed to make this activity safer. That’s harm reduction.

WATCH | Harm reduction explained.

Emissions from petrol and diesel cars are known to be damaging to the environment, but driving is an inescapable part of modern life. Electric vehicles bypass the burning of fossil fuels, resulting in lower emissions. That’s harm reduction.

Innovation has been brought to bear on another hazard of driving: the dreaded crash. From ABS and ESP to airbags and seatbelts, these and other innovations have been carefully designed to make accidents less likely, and where they can't be avoided, to prevent fatalities. That’s harm reduction.

Harm reduction can also work for tobacco

Where smoking is concerned, quitting tobacco and nicotine altogether will always be the best choice. However, for those adults who don’t, scientifically substantiated smoke-free products that are made to appropriate quality standards, while not risk-free, can be a much better choice than continuing to smoke, says Unsmoke SA.

These smoke-free alternatives, which include e-cigarettes, heated tobacco products and snus, do not burn tobacco and should emit fewer and lower levels of harmful chemicals compared to the smoke produced when tobacco is burned. That’s harm reduction.

If enough adult smokers around the world switch to smoke-free alternatives, Unsmoke SA believes we can go further faster in addressing the public health impact of smoking

If enough adult smokers around the world switch to smoke-free alternatives, Unsmoke SA believes we can go further faster in addressing the public health impact of smoking.

That’s not to say existing tobacco control measures designed to discourage people from starting to smoke, or to encourage existing smokers to quit, should stop. However, it’s worth noting that despite these efforts, millions of people continue to smoke.

Scientifically substantiated, smoke-free products can play a role in moving adults who would otherwise continue to smoke away from cigarettes. With the right regulatory encouragement and support from civil society, together we can deliver a smoke-free future more quickly than relying on traditional measures alone, says Unsmoke SA.

To learn more, visit Unsmoke SA.

This article was paid for by Philip Morris SA.


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