Consumer groups in the Asia-Pacific are holding a webinar on 26 September 2020 to encourage countries in the region to acknowledge tobacco harm reduction (THR) as a human right and discuss the merits of smoke-free nicotine products as much safer alternatives to cigarettes.

The Voices4Vape webinar is the first THR event organized by consumers for consumers. THR is a public health strategy that aims to provide alternatives to reduce risks caused by smoking cigarettes. Health experts estimated that the smoking epidemic claims the lives of 20,000 people a day because of the toxicants found in tobacco smoke.

The online conference at https://voices4vape.org/ that will run from 4pm to 8pm (GMT +8) is open to all and has free registration. Initiated by the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA), the webinar will bring together public health policy experts, scientists, professionals, and consumers who believe that the right to safer alternatives is a fundamental human right.

CAPHRA is inviting consumer groups in Asia-Pacific countries to join the webinar and make their voices heard. “This is tobacco harm reduction’s first consumer-focused event, and your participation and input are valuable. We are doing this, so we can have a say in our future,” CAPHRA said in a statement.

It said the Voices4Vape webinar aims to shed a light on THR products as less harmful alternatives to combustible cigarettes and convince regulators to give consumers a voice in the policy-making process.

Smoke-free THR products include e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco products, and snus which have been scientifically proven to be less harmful than cigarettes and effective in making millions of smokers globally quit.

Unlike cigarettes, the use of smoke-free alternatives does not involve combustion. While people smoke for the nicotine, they die of smoke. Scientific studies show that the toxicants and solid particles in cigarette smoke are the main causes of the vast majority of tobacco‐related deaths and diseases.

More than ten years of scientific research show that smoke-free nicotine products are at least 95-percent less harmful than combustible tobacco and have successfully helped millions of smokers globally switch off the deadly alternative.

The webinar assembled some of the world’s leading experts who will bring their own experience, expertise, and unique perspectives to the discussion. Invited to share their insights are Eliana Rubashkyn, a scientist in a pharmaceutical laboratory in Auckland, chief of standards of VTANZ and a board member of UKVIA; Clive Bates, a global proponent of tobacco harm reduction who knows the inners workings of the World Health Organization (WHO); Samrat Chowdhery, president of International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations in India; Joey Dulay, president of the Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association Inc and Jena Fetalino, a public relations practitioner based in Manila who has a solid background in publishing and PR.

Consumer advocacy panelists include Nancy Loucas, executive coordinator of CAPHRA; Stephanie Theusen, director of Stakeholder Engagement for the Progressive Public Health Alliance in Australia; Jagannath Sarangapani, an ex-smoker who switched vaping; Clarisse Yvette P. Virgino, a law school student and tobacco harm reduction advocate in the Philippines; Asa Saligupta, a THR advocate based in Thailand.

Expert panelists include Fiona Patten, a Member of Parliament for the Northern Metropolitan Region in Victoria’s Legislative Council; David Sweanor, an adjunct professor of law and chair of the advisory committee of the Centre for Health Law, Policy and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, Canada; and Terry Barnes, an Australian policy analyst, political commentator and currently Fellow of the UK Institute of Economic Affairs.

The event will be moderated by Gavin Ryan, head of the Progressive Public Health Alliance, a public health organization based in Victoria, Australia.

“We need to unite globally as one, in order to let our voices be heard. As consenting adults, we have every right to choose the way we live our lives, including alternatives to help ourselves create a smoke-free world,” CAPHRA said.

The organizers of the webinar invite the public to register at https://voices4vape.org and participate in the sessions by asking questions via the chatbox. Participants are also encouraged to sign up for the newsletters’ mailing list to stay connected, take the online survey, and sign a petition that will be presented to the World Health Organization.

The petition urges the WHO to recommend to their member countries that they immediately work on introducing sensible legislation to legalize and regulate vaping as part of their obligation to tobacco harm reduction, which is a basic human right that many governments currently prohibit.