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Does harm reduction help anti-smoking campaign?

The Citizens Council, a group which brings the views of the public to NICE’s decision-making, has voted in favour of the use of harm reduction as a way to reduce the dangers of smoking.

The 30 members of the Citizens Council met in October last year to discuss the pros and cons of harm reduction.

The aim of harm reduction is to reduce the harm associated with cigarettes for smokers who find it too hard to quit. This could include replacing cigarettes with a clean form of nicotine, or with cigarettes which intend to deliver lower levels of toxins.

It’s a way to provide a less harmful alternative to smoking while accepting that nicotine addiction continues.

Sir Michael Rawlins, Chair of NICE, said: “The concept of harm reduction conflicts with traditional smoking cessation as it does not necessarily seek to help people stop smoking altogether, nor does it treat nicotine addiction. What would this approach mean for the goal of having a smoke free society?

The findings from the Citizens Council come as the Department of Health launches a Tobacco Control Strategy for England which aims to divide the number of smokers, from 21 to 10 per cent of the population by 2020.

This latest strategy, A Smokefree Future, sets out to ensure that every smoker will be able to get help from the NHS to suit them if they want to give up. This includes introducing new approaches to reducing smoking such as harm reduction.

The Department of Health will also work with NICE to encourage alignment of the Quality and Outcomes Framework (QOF), so as to encourage more smokers to use the NHS Stop Smoking Services.

The public is now invited to comment on the Citizens Council members’ views on the use of harm reduction in smoking, before the report is presented to the NICE Board. The report on the Council’s views is available for public comment, at (Comments must be sent in by 5pm on Wednesday, 31 March 2010).

source: Finiancial Times  and NICE

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