A World Without Cigarettes: Dream or Reality?

Smoking, no matter how deadly, is a life-style choice of many people – a billion, to be exact. Despite strict bans and heavy taxes, the burgeoning number of smokers speaks volumes about the inability of conventional strategies in curbing smoking. Several organizations, regulatory bodies and even the tobacco industry itself are working towards reducing tobacco harm and have come up with some unconventional solutions to this problem, such as, reduced-risk products. These products considerably lower levels of harm for a smoker, while also having a significant impact on the health of passive/second-hand smokers and the ecosystem. Several countries around the world have tried and tested this strategy to reduce tobacco harm and are proof that these products, though not a perfect solution, are definitely a more practical and result-driven approach towards reducing tobacco harm.

A small Greek Island, Astypalea recently received smoke-free certification from TUV Austria, a leading independent certification organization. It is the first place to achieve this goal. In 2018, the Island set a goal to go smoke-free and marketed this initiative as an attraction to tourists. This encouraged the locals to become more involved. Soon businesses and local tourists’ sites started adopting smoke-free policies. Hotels and restaurants encouraged adult smokers to quit and welcomed the use of reduced-risk alternatives and eventually, the whole Island became smoke-free. But how did a place where smoking was widespread become smoke-free? The local authorities took it upon themselves to start a campaign “Astypalea without cigarettes” and set up a goal to replace cigarettes with smoke-free products. The authorities said that they didn’t force anyone to quit smoking as it never produced desired results before, but relied on their campaign strategies and people’s goodwill to achieve their goals.

New Zealand is also on a similar journey and has set up a goal to become completely smoke-free by 2025. The country has employed various tobacco harm reduction strategies but time and again stressed that “it’s not about banning smoking but about taking action against tobacco so that by 2025 hardly anyone smokes.” One of the key strategies in their action plan is to educate people about smoke-free and less harmful alternatives so that if they are unable to quit, they can at least switch to options that cause less harm to themselves, to people around them, and to the environment. They realized that imposing bans on cigarettes does not equate to less smokers. In October 2017, their Ministry of Health put out a position statement that said, “vaping products have the potential to make a contribution to the ‘Smokefree 2025’ goal.” They are making efforts to educate people about different vaping products including e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products.

Other countries are also working towards becoming smoke-free and have employed various harm-reduction strategies. The countries that have come even a little closer to achieving this goal, have realized that simply banning tobacco is not the solution but educating people about other smoke-free and less harmful alternatives and making those available is one of the key factors. It has also proved that giving people these options and letting them make their own lifestyle choices, best suited to their needs, contributes towards a more efficient and longer lasting attitude change, leading to positive behavioral change.

References:

Smoke-free products opening new avenues | WTM Global Hub

Greece's Astypalea Aims to Become First Smoke-Free Island (greekreporter.com)

Astylpalea - The World's first smoke free island - The Yorkshire Gentleman

Smokefree Aotearoa 2025 | Health Promotion Agency Smokefree

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