Applications for Global Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme Closing Soon

The Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme (THRSP), aims to develop the tobacco harm reduction leaders of tomorrow, offering mentoring and financial support for a 12-month project.

The Tobacco Harm Reduction Scholarship Programme (THRSP), led by the UK-based public health agency Knowledge•Action•Change (K•A•C), is currently open for applications. Sponsored by the Foundation for a Smoke-Free World, the program aims to develop future tobacco harm reduction (THR) leaders and offers mentoring and financial support to scholars for a 12-month project.

Successful applicants participate in this program also gain access to the Global Forum on Nicotine (GFN) in Poland. The applications for the 2024-25 program close soon, on November 30th, and involve an online course on THR before project submission.

The THRSP, aims to introduce innovative ideas and technologies to combat smoking-related deaths, totaling 8 million yearly. To this effect, the program’s applicants must propose projects to enhance THR in their respective regions. Past scholars have published scientific research, established networks, developed cessation toolkits, and created various media resources. Former Scholar Chimwemwe Ngoma, who now manages the program, highlighted the value of the scholarship in implementing successful THR initiatives.

THRSP Patron, Ethan Nadelmann, emphasizes the importance of the program given the resistance of global organizations, like the WHO, to tobacco harm reduction. Scholars, like Juan José Cirión Lee and Kiran Sidhu, have praised the program for supporting overlooked areas with high-risk tobacco users and fostering a supportive community among diverse participants at the GFN.

The 6th Summit on Tobacco Harm Reduction
In line with this, the 6th Summit on Tobacco Harm Reduction: Novel Products, Research & Policy was organized by SCOHRE (the International Association on Smoking Control & Harm Reduction) held in Greece last September, emphasized that practical approaches to smoking cessation are more effective than the harsh strategies that the WHO keeps pushing for.

This discussion took place in anticipation of the WHO’s infamous 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) being held this November in Panama, where the ban or regulation of “novel and emerging tobacco and nicotine products” like vapes, heated tobacco, and nicotine pouches will be addressed. The panelists, all experts in the field public health, reiterated that strategies offering smokers less harmful alternatives to traditional cigarettes are more effective at reducing smoking compared to the WHO’s FCTC approach which is based on prohibition.

Dr. Lorenzo Mata, President of Quit For Good, a non-profit organization promoting harm reduction in the Philippines, stressed the importance of advocating for science-based policies on a global stage, especially in countries experienced in regulating these new products. While Dr. Fernando Fernandez Bueno, a Spanish physician, emphasized the need for a scientific and data-driven debate on tobacco control, moving away from emotional responses and opinions to make real progress in the fight against tobacco.

Professor Andrzej Fal, President of the Polish Society of Public Health, highlighted the importance of prevention in curbing the financial and health effects of smoking. He advocated for funding primordial prevention and a “less harm, less tax” regulatory approach. While Professor David Sweanor from the University of Ottawa pointed out the failure of FCTC and WHO to acknowledge the benefits of less harmful tobacco and nicotine products in replacing cigarettes and warned of unnecessary deaths and loss of credibility.

Renowned THR researcher Dr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, cited data from countries supporting less harmful products, showcasing how these nations have achieved lower smoking rates through alternatives like vapes, snus and heated tobacco products (HTPs).

The WHO’s FCTC insists on excluding THR from its agenda
GSTHR (Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction) has recently conducted an analysis of the COP10 agenda and its accompanying documents, with the aim of assessing the potential impact of the conference on tobacco harm reduction.

The findings revealed a tragic but non-surprising absence of any consideration for THR and its capacity to mitigate smoking-related health issues in the planned proceedings. On the contrary, the publicly accessible documentation leading up to FCTC COP10 portrays safer nicotine products as a menace to tobacco control rather than potential tools which could help smokers quit or reduce the harm from combustible tobacco.

It is expected that FCTC member states will be urged to categorize and regulate nicotine vapes, snus, nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco products in a manner similar to combustible tobacco.