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ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS IN POLICY MAKING?

The ethical obligations of those who work for public health are as old as the health professions themselves .The commitment to place the interests of people above all else is one of the hallmarks of professionalism.

Being able to relate to another person and to identify with and understand somebody else’s feelings or difficulties is a basic definition of empathy.It’s easier to understand the struggles of a smoker if you’ve been one yourself.

Statistics such as 8.1 million smokers dying every year have no shock value anymore simply because we’re used to hearing this all the time. A billion lives are at stake, yet the FCTC and other tobacco control organizations remain opposed to better strategies .Behind every number is a real human being.Keeping people who smoke alive and preventing irreparable damage is regarded as the most urgent priority while it is acknowledged that there may be many other important priorities. Proposals to deny safer alternatives to smokers does not only directly affect current smokers, but future smokers & nonsmokers as well.In order to tackle smoking, products that can effectively and acceptably deliver nicotine without smoke should secure favorable regulation.

Human rights were established to protect fundamental values such as the ability to live, have a family and be free from cruel treatment. The human right to life is a fundamental right recognized in UDHR article 3, ICCPR article 6 and for children in CRC article 6. The human right to health is recognized in ICESCR article 12. The current approach to global tobacco control fuels widespread human rights violations against people who smoke. Human rights apply to everyone. People who smoke do not forfeit their human rights, including the right to the highest attainable standard of health.Tobacco harm reduction opposes the deliberate hurts and harms inflicted on people who smoke cigarettes in the name of tobacco control and promotes responses to nicotine addiction that respect and protect fundamental human rights.

In order to tackle harmful effects of smoking in the developing countries, more so Africa, Snus, E cigarettes and heat-not-burn products should be made available and affordable. These products should be made affordable to smokers in developing countries as an urgent human rights issue. Governments also have a mandate to disseminate accurate information on safer nicotine products to allow smokers to make informed decisions.

Policy makers and the public health community have a key role to play in maximizing the potential for safer nicotine products to contribute to harm reduction. For them to be a success, they must be supported by effective regulatory and policy regimes that enable responsible growth and promote informed consumer choice.

“Nothing About Us Without Us!” is a slogan used to communicate the idea that no policy should be decided by any representative without the full and direct participation of members of the group(s) affected by that policy.I believe this applies to smokers too. They shouldn’t be looked at as a sick group of people that need decisions made on their behalf without their participation. W.H.O’s F.C.T.C should shift their perspectives from themselves,increase empathy and reduce stigma. At the end of the day,it’s all about saving lives.

Avid Tobacco Harm Reductionist

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