Tobacco use remains the leading cause of preventable death in this country and more needs to be done to reduce smoking rates. Harm reduction is one policy option. Smokers smoke for the nicotine, but die from the other toxins in cigarette smoke. Harm reduction in tobacco control aims to reduce the harm arising from nicotine use by shifting smokers, who are unable to quit, to using far less hazardous sources of nicotine, notably medicinal nicotine, in place of cigarettes. This article argues that for harm reduction to work in the UK, a nicotine product regulation authority is first needed. This would regulate nicotine products in proportion to harm to ensure that, contrary to the current paradoxical arrangements, the most harmful source of nicotine, the cigarette, becomes the most highly regulated (and thus the least easily accessible, available and attractive). It goes onto explore how a harm reduction strategy might be further developed, exploring controversies and potential pitfalls. It argues that the public health community needs to own and drive this debate because failure to do so would let the tobacco industry gain the upper hand and see thousands of more unnecessary deaths from tobacco use.
Gilmore, A. B., Britton, J., Arnott, D., Ashcroft, R., & Jarvis, M. J. (2009). The place for harm reduction and product regulation in UK tobacco control policy. Journal of Public Health, 31(1), 3-10. https://doi.org/10.1093/pubmed/fdn105