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World Health Organization reiterated the harms of heat-not-burn tobacco products
2020.08.17
The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a statement in response to the decision of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States (US) to approve the modified risk tobacco product (MRTP) application of a heat-not-burn (HNB) tobacco product, reiterating that the products are not less harmful than conventional cigarettes.

In July 2020, the US FDA allowed the marketing of a HNB tobacco product as MRTP with “exposure modification” orders based on tobacco industry’s evidence claiming reduced exposure to harmful and potentially harmful chemicals from tobacco upon complete switching from conventional cigarettes. In response to the decision, the WHO reiterated that the reduced exposure does not render the product harmless or less harmful. Risk reduction and exposure reduction claims may be misleading that risk to human health is reduced. Comparing with conventional cigarettes, aerosols from HNB tobacco products release higher levels of some toxins as well as additional toxins. The WHO reminded that the policy framework on tobacco should be applied to HNB tobacco products as well, prohibiting misleading claims about the characteristics, health effects, hazards or emissions of are prohibited.

Despite the decision, the US FDA emphasizes that the HNB tobacco product is neither safe nor FDA approved, and requests the tobacco company to monitor youth use to prevent unintended consequences. In fact, the prevalence of HNB tobacco product use in US youths is already comparable to that in adults. The 2019 National Youth Tobacco Survey showed that 2.4% of US youths were ever HNB tobacco product users (2.2% in adults) and 1.6% were current users (1.1% in adults). In the current users, 42% were never smokers, showing that HNB tobacco products could be a gateway to smoking.

All forms of smoking products are harmful. COSH strongly urges the Hong Kong Government and Legislative Council to resume the legislation for a total ban on alternative smoking products, including e-cigarettes and HNB tobacco products, as soon as possible. The Government should also formulate a timeline for a total ban on smoking to achieve smoke-free Hong Kong.

Sources: World Health Organization
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