South African Professor Speaks at International Summit in Athens on Tobacco Harm Reduction and Legislation in SA

South African Professor Speaks at International Summit in Athens on Tobacco Harm Reduction and Legislation in SA
South African Professor Speaks at International Summit in Athens on Tobacco Harm Reduction and Legislation in SA

The 6th Summit on Tobacco Harm Reduction addressed information and misinformation about tobacco harm reduction. The discussion focused on the assessment of global regulation, legislation, and existing scientific evidence for tobacco harm reduction products.

This week the summit concluded successfully with the attendance reaching 250 participants from all over the world who responded to SCOHRE, the Summit organizer, invitation to take part in a constructive dialogue to help come up with a better approach to the global burden of smoking. During the day, research was presented at three sessions of great interest to the audience.

Professor Solomon Rataemane, head of department, Psychiatry Department at Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa addressed delegates at the 6th Scientific Summit on tobacco harm reduction.


During the session “Information & Misinformation About THR” the discussion focused on the assessment of global regulation, legislation, and existing scientific evidence for THR products. Mr. Tim Phillips, Managing Director, Tamarind Intelligence, UK said that THR sector may still be small but is growing fast. It is a fact that regulators must deal with a variety of different issues, he said, and to conclude to the best decisions they need more data. Also, data must be communicated, and the scientific community should be more active on presenting evidence-based findings to regulators, policy makers and the public.

Professor Ignatios Ikonomidis, President of SCOHRE, at the Opening Session stated that in previous Summits it has been established that although the prevalence of smoking has decreased steadily around the globe, the total number of smokers has increased, as populations have grown. Novel smoking products show a smaller emission of toxic substances compared to conventional cigarettes and there is an increasing interest in Tobacco Harm Reduction as a tool to reduce the detrimental consequences of cigarette smoking. However, more data is needed for politicians and public health regulators to make informed decisions.

Consequently, the objective of the 6th Summit is to offer opportunities for scientists of different countries to present, discuss, and challenge recent data, but also to provide an environment where regulatory authorities and policy makers may interact with the scientific and medical communities on the prospective course of action ‘For a Smoke-Free World.’ Prof. Giuseppe Biondi Zoccai, Dr Fares Mili and Prof. Anastasia Barbouni, added to the opening remarks regarding the Summit’s goals.

Besides the need for data-based policies, consumers’ confidence on THR is also an issue of high importance. Increasing awareness of consumers about the impact of smoking and the impact of novel lower-risk alternatives to combustible cigarettes is crucial, Solomon Rataemane, Professor & HOD, Psychiatry Dept, Sefako Makgatho Health Sciences University, South Africa, said.

He spoke about the evolution of the relevant legislation in South Africa since the first Act in 1993 until today that a new Bill on tobacco legislation is going through Public Hearings. A main issue that is already being discussed and is expected to come up during this procedure is whether the new THR products should be addressed similarly with the combustible cigarettes, even though there is scientific evidence that switching from conventional cigarettes to the novel non-combustible products is improving smokers’ health.

Professor Giuseppe Biondi Zoccai, Associate Professor in Cardiology, Sapienza University of Rome, Italy, commented that although the wide variability in e-cigarette products makes it challenging to draw definitive conclusions about their overall health impact, and findings and conclusions of umbrella and systematic reviews can vary depending on scope of review, studies included, and methodologies used―professor Zoccai said―still, evidence from umbrella reviews show that e-cigarettes increase quit rates compared to nicotine replacement therapy (NRT), while evidence comparing nicotine e-cigs with usual care or no treatment also suggests benefit.

In his keynote speech exploring the financial aspects of smoking, Professor Andrzej Fal, President, Polish Society of Public Health, Poland, referred to an apparent conflict of interest created by the efforts for smoking cessation; on one hand they reduce the direct and indirect healthcare costs, but on the other hand they also reduce the income gained by excise and VAT taxes. At an era when health expenditures keep growing, and while the total cost attributable to cigarette smoking reaches almost 2% of the world’s GDP, prevention –through lifestyle changes, reduction of behavioural risk factors and harm reduction– is the most effective way of investing in future health. To stop the smoking pandemic and its financial and health effects we need to raise funding for primary prevention, as well as introduce a “less harm, less tax” regulation.

In a highly interesting keynote speech, Dr Marewa Glover, Director, Centre of Research Excellence: Indigenous Sovereignty & Smoking, New Zealand, gave an update on the recent legislative and regulatory changes in New Zealand concerning smoking and vaping, and presented preliminary research data about the barriers and misconceptions that prevent a part of smokers’ population from achieving smoking cessation. She shared the preliminary data analysis of “Voices of the 5%” research, ongoing longitudinal qualitative research, from 2020 to 2024, in 62 diverse adults (19-81 yrs) across New Zealand. We assume everyone knows that smoking kills, but some people really don’t know, Dr Glover said. We cannot ignore these people, we must focus more on health education to help them, she added.

For more information visit the event’s website: