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Chris Ford | 15 July 2016

Dr Chris Ford, the Clinical Director of International Doctors for Healthier Drug Policies, recently attended the Global Forum on Nicotine. Here are some thoughts from her and her colleagues afterwards.

The dogma that has pervaded global drug policy over the last fifty years is hard to comprehend. People have been using substances to alter the way they feel for thousands of years and there is no indication that this will ever stop. Like we do for all other potentially hazardous activities, provision of information and tools to reduce potential harms would be the action of a responsible and caring society.

 

For example, we know beyond any doubt that providing clean needles and syringes radically reduces the transmission of HIV. However, due to dogma, there are still many places where it is illegal or very difficult to obtain any clean injecting equipment.

We know that billions of dollars of revenue pours annually into the hands of the criminal world from sticking to the failed policy of prohibition. We see that this leaves this enormously lucrative industry in the hands of criminals, results in violence at a level more associated with war than business disputes.

What does all this have to do with smoking? The selling of tobacco for smoking is probably the most immoral and insidious form of drug dealing in the world. We know that over six million people die every year from smoking. The companies that produce and distribute this deadly product are largely based in countries where much stricter regulation of advertising, selling and where you can use has become normal. However, about 80% of world’s smokers live in the poorer countries where almost none of these regulations apply. This leads to huge amounts of money pouring from the poorest to the richest at the same time as killing millions of people in the poorest countries.

The Royal College of Physicians in April this year reported that risks using a vaporizer (e-cigarette) are unlikely to exceed 5% of those associated with smoked tobacco products, and may well be substantially lower than this figure.. The life saving potential of mass availability of e-cigarettes is almost beyond comprehension. Even in the face of such obvious benefits we are seeing the same dogma creeping in. This dogma is already preventing access to e-cigarettes on an alarming scale.

We have already witnessed how preventing access to a safer way of doing things kills huge numbers of people.

There is no evidence to support claims that harm reduction interventions, like needle and syringe programmes, encourages drug use.

Likewise there is no evidence to support claims that harm reduction interventions like e-cigarettes encourage smoking.

The time has come for the evidence to supersede the dogma when is comes to reducing death. Health and only health must be at the heart of all policies related to drug use and this includes smoking tobacco. We urge all doctors to join us in IDHDP in calling for these health focused policies. Its free, easy and quick to join – just click here for more information.

Dr Chris Ford CD and Sebastian Saville ED IDHDP www.idhdp.com