It’s funny how things can actually be well past their prime and no longer function as they should, yet you hold on to them out of nostalgia for the ‘old days’ fondness for them or a sense of loyalty. I can be a bit like that. I remember the first car I owned, bright yellow, fast and, if I’m honest, far too powerful for an upstart like me. After I’d sunk far more money into it than the thing was worth, I still couldn’t bring myself to give up on it. It felt like I was letting down an old friend. In the end, I had to accept the fact that it cost too much and I was never going to fit a baby seat in the back of a Mazda MX5. Horses for courses and all that.
No matter how well something has served you, there comes a time when you have to admit getting to your destination is more important than impressing the bystanders.
Ireland has set its destination as ‘Tobacco Free’ by 2025, 5% of the population using tobacco. It’s chosen vehicle to get there? The World Health Organisation MPOWER Model.
Not a new model but a perfectly serviceable secondhand one that has a proven record. Or at least it would seem so. It has been used to reduce smoking to around 20% almost everywhere it’s been implemented, slightly better in some areas than in others but pretty much guaranteed to reduce tobacco use to 20%. You see the problem right? If your target is 5% then this horse isn’t going to stay the course. A better model is needed.
Better models are available, the Swedish model for example. Sweden has basically achieved a smoke-free generation with daily smoking rates at 5%. Not tobacco-free though as one of the main drivers of the Swedish model is SNUS a smokeless tobacco. It seems as if the 5% destination is to be arrived at then the key factor is making alternatives to lit cigarettes widely available and encouraging them. The argument against SNUS is that the cultural difference between Sweden and the rest of Europe means it wouldn’t work here.
In the UK they too have a similar bold destination in mind but a different model driving them. In a recent parliament debate on the UK tobacco control plan, this nugget came to light.
Sir Kevin Barron highlighted the gulf between the UK and Ireland, two countries with identical traditional tobacco control policies but with differing approaches to e-cigarettes. Between 2012 and 2016 smoking dropped by nearly a quarter in the UK . In Ireland, where e-cigarettes are viewed with suspicion, the smoking rate actually went up in this period.
The significant parts of this are the huge drop in smoking and the cultural and regulatory similarity between the UK and us.
Now, our own tobacco control plan, Tobacco Free Ireland has just published its own annual report Tobacco Free Ireland Annual Report 2017 which makes no mention of any harm reduction aspect to the policy. In fact, apart from an aside that vaping has been included in some voluntary smoke-free initiatives, e-cigarettes are only mentioned twice in the report. Both times in relation to restrictions on them; transposing the TPD regulations on advertising and standards. No mention of the possibility that they may be the best chance of reaching the magical 5% anywhere in the report.
They do mention the impression they made on the bystanders though;
The recognition by the WHO of the Department of Health’s outstanding contribution to tobacco control in its World No Tobacco Day Awards
So that’s a win ?
Smoking has risen since this effort started. This is the number of ‘current smokers’ in Ireland today I’ll say that again, smoking has gone up! Up! The plan isn’t progressing nicely, it isn’t just a bit behind its targets, it’s an abysmal failure.
You have to wonder how they intend to get to 5% if they continue with this effort?
Change the record.
We now have two examples of alternative nicotine products reducing smoking or tobacco use, one the Swedish example, a tobacco but smoke-free alternative and the UK example, a non-tobacco and smoke-free alternative. Both proven to work, both easy to implement. At no cost to the taxpayer unlike the NRT Champix merry go round.
You have to wonder why we can have a harm reduction policy that rightly informs the public of the safest way to consume cocaine Cocaine – Reduce the Harms but cannot have a harm-reduction policy that would inform the public of the safest way to consume nicotine? Fondness for the old ways? Impressing the bystanders?