Risk continuum shows nicotine products can save lives at a faster rate than previously possible

Annual Review of Public Health

Abrams DB, Glasser AM, Pearson JL, et al. ‘Harm Minimization and Tobacco Control: Reframing Societal Views of Nicotine Use to Rapidly Save Lives’, Annual Review of Public Health, 2018 Apr 39:193-213.

Key Points:

  • There is a continuum of harm of nicotine-containing products. They range from exceptionally low harm (e.g. nicotine patches, vapes) to exceptionally high harm (e.g. cigarettes, cigars). 
  • When nicotine is separated from the deadly toxins in tobacco smoke, it is substantially less harmful as nicotine itself does not cause cancer.
  • Tobacco control strategies should adopt harm minimisation policies to rapidly move smokers to less harmful nicotine products.
  • The public must be educated about the relative harms of nicotine-containing products relative to smoking, to counteract misperceptions about the safety of nicotine. 
  • Tobacco control regulation should be proportionate to the relative harm of each product class. 
  • Nicotine products provide a means to compete with and even replace cigarettes, saving more lives more rapidly than previously possible.
  • Switching smokers to safer nicotine products could save millions of life years and reverse the tobacco pandemic.