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Ignoring our elders: tobacco control’s forgotten health equity issue
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  • Published on:
    Increasing quitting in older smokers should be top priority in rich countries
    • Alex D Wodak AM, (Retired) Physician Emeritus Consultant, St Vincent’s Hospital, Sydney, NSW, Australia

    Reducing smoking rates in older smokers will achieve a far greater reduction in deaths & disease and do this much earlier than reducing already much lower smoking rates in teens & young populations. Tobacco harm reduction (THR) options, such as vaping, Heated Tobacco Products (HTP), snus & nicotine pouches, all avoid inhalation of smoke from tobacco combustion and are less risky than smoking cigarettes which are responsible for the death of more than 50% of long term smokers. Cigarette sales in Japan declined by over 40% in five years after HTPs entered the Japanese market in 2016. There are now many other examples of other THR options substituting for deadly cigarettes in other countries.
    New drug harm reduction interventions usually face fierce opposition for many years after their introduction. Needle syringe programs to reduce HIV spread among and from people who inject drugs were still strongly resisted long after the evidence for their effectiveness, safety and cost effectiveness was incontrovertible. It is not surprising to me therefore, as a veteran of many battles over new drug harm reduction interventions, to observe the acrimonious debate over THR.
    If it is made easy for older smokers to switch to THR options, the benefits will not only be an acceleration in the decline of smoking related deaths and disease, but also a more rapid decline in cigarette sales.

    Conflict of Interest:
    None declared.