2023 has been another dramatic and turbulent year for vapers and smokers across the globe. Whilst there have been draconian clamp downs on safer products, and vaping misinformation remains rife, there have also been notable positive developments. In today's episode Will Godfrey joins us to summarise the most significant THR news stories covered by Filter Magazine in 2023.
Chapters:0:00 - Intro with Joanna Junak 0:35 - Will Godfrey joins us to highlight this year's biggest THR news stories 1:24 - How will the USA menthol ban affect smokers? 2:18 - UK pledges 1 million free vapes for smokers 3:29 - THR science takes centre stage 4:35 - What can we do about vaping misinformation? 4:51 - Could 2024 be a year for change?
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Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. In today's episode, Will Godfrey is going to summarise some of the most important and interesting issues around tobacco harm reduction that Filter covered in 2023, with implications for the year ahead. Let's hear what Will has to say.
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Will Godfrey: Looking back over Filter's 2023 tobacco harm reduction stories was often dispiriting. We've covered bans, impending bans and restrictions in Australia, Bangladesh, Denmark, Finland, France, Mexico, Taiwan, Thailand, multiple US states and Venezuela, among others, and prohibition remains a widespread direction of travel. It could quickly get worse. The World Health Organization's COP10 meeting, planned for last month but now postponed to 2024, is widely anticipated to make the global landscape even more hostile, as Martin Cullip described for us. In the United States, where the FDA still fails to adequately authorize and regulate vapes, one of the biggest stories is an impending ban of menthol cigarettes. This would expand the drug war, Diane Goldstein wrote in August, with enforcement liable to target black communities with high rates of menthol smoking. That announcement has now also been kicked back a few months, just hinting at political cold feet. Existing menthol bans in Massachusetts and California haven't impressed, we've reported. Meanwhile, the FDA has not authorized a single menthol or flavored vaping product to date. Still in the U.S., we've confronted reams of misinformation and alarmism from the FDA to the CDC to the American Lung Association. And even if a Netflix series somewhat flipped the narrative on Juul, as Helen Redman described in October, the youth vaping outcry lives on. It's not happening unaided, as our coverage of Bloomberg anti-THR funding and the likes of the Truth Initiative has shown. Positive policy developments have sadly been thin on the ground, even if hopes are alive in many places. But one standout moment was when the UK pledged to give free vapes to one million people who smoke, as Kieran Sidhu reported in April. But even there, the tone has become more prohibitionist over the year, with bans of disposables and flavors now on the table, plus an incremental smoking ban of the kind that New Zealand just scrapped. If we're looking for positives, we'll do better to turn to advocacy and science. I'm still fiercely optimistic, wrote KAC's Gerry Stimson in June. What's behind this? Is it consumers? Consumer THR groups fight on, despite little funding and a lot of exclusion, as we've reported. We've covered important gatherings like the Global Forum on Nicotine and featured inspiring THR advocates from all over the world. Science is also running way ahead of policy, demonstrating the life-saving efficacy of THR. Research we've reported on has shown, for example, how heated tobacco products help people quit smoking even unintentionally. A Helen Redmond video portrayed an Italian THR study for people with schizophrenia. We've looked at research on how flavor advice helps people switch, the benefits of nicotine, how vape pricing is critical, and how vapes will free up vast healthcare resources by replacing cigarettes on a large scale. Ben Adlin even reported on a rare victory over misinformation after a study linking vapes with liver disease was retracted. Yet stigma blunts the impacts of these advances. It maintains the devastating toll of lung cancer, as Skip Murray wrote. It hampers recruitment for nicotine research. Few think that measures like Canada requiring health warnings on every single cigarette are helpful, while draconian attitudes harm everyone from school students to people with mental health conditions. In this light, some of our thought-provoking pieces included Kieran reporting on calls to abandon the term smoker, Skip highlighting the contradiction between youth suicide prevention and zero-tolerance school policies, and Kieran again looking into parents who aren't zero-tolerance on teen vaping and why. It's time to change the way we look at youth vaping, argued Colin Mendelsohn in July, disputing net harms at a population level and directly taking on perceptions that have held back harm reduction worldwide. So 2023 held bans, misinformation, advocacy, good and bad, science, stigma, and the continuing horrific reality of health disparities and millions of preventable smoking related deaths. But if that balance sounds negative, and it is, we can also reflect that despite everything, well over 100 million people in the world today use safer nicotine products instead of combustible tobacco. We've covered stories of people quitting cigarettes through harm reduction everywhere from Paris to rural Wales to prisons. And if so many people are doing it in our current landscape, Just imagine the potential if 2024 or future years saw the political penny begin to drop.