Policy Documents

Tobacco and Tobacco Products at a Crossroads in the 21st Century

Scott D. Ballin –
August 1, 2006

“Tobacco Harm Reduction” seems to be on the lips of everyone who is associated with tobacco, public health, industry, growers, biotech companies and consumers. Some think it’s a good idea that holds promise for reducing disease
and death caused by the use of tobacco. Others think it poses great risks. And still others retain an ‘abstinence only’ view. The goals of this paper are to lay out a series of issues that
I believe must be considered as part of the harm reduction debate and dialogue if ‘harm reduction’ is to move forward; to stimulate discussion and to find potential new avenues towards achieving goals. Harm reduction is not as ‘black and
white’ as many like to think it is. What is possible and what is not possible, what will work and what will not work will depend on how the various stakeholders and other experts choose to be involved or not be involved. This paper contains some essential elements that I suggest must be a part of any harm reduction efforts and discussions. These elements are intricately intertwined and overlapping and each cannot be
dealt with in a vacuum. This paper attempts to provide some suggested guidance as well as recommendations for both a short and longer term process to deal with harm reduction. The rapidly changing tobacco environment demands new leadership from all of the stakeholders. It demands transparency to engage in meaningful dialogue when appropriate. We should be talking and considering how to move forward rather than
hanging on to the past and finding reasons why nothing should be done.