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HUMAN RIGHTS AND ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS FOR SAFER ALTERNATIVES

Most anti-tobacco policies and legislation ratified under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO F.C.T.C) aim to reduce smoking prevalence. Recent years, however, have seen the rise of smokefree products that are much safer for smokers and pose less health risks compared to the traditional cigarettes. This life saving technology under normal circumstances should have been integrated in the fight against smoking, but this has not been the case. 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 would not directly affect current smokers, but future smokers & nonsmokers as well.

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. Harm reduction opposes the deliberate hurts and harms inflicted on people who smoke cigarettes in the name of tobacco control and drug prevention 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 and vaping products should be made available and affordable. The costs of vaping should be reduced for smokers in developing countries as an urgent human rights issue. It has already been established that these products are safer and less harmful; they should be made available to smokers in Asia and Africa. The smoker has a right to accurate information, which can be lifesaving. It’s as simple as that. The problem with many governments is that they do not understand nicotine. Vaping products should not be taxed as highly as cigarettes, they are not the same. People in poor countries should not be priced out of nicotine-based products that could potentially help them to quit smoking.

Smokers have rights too. In this fight against smoking, options should be made available and information on safer alternatives should be passed to every smoker to help them in making informed decisions.

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