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Friday, March 10, 2023


Is there a harm reduction aspect to any of these products? I have heard researchers say that vaping is harm Reduction for nicotine. I think that’s an exploitative misuse of the term harm reduction. As a harm Reduction oriented, responsible clinician, I am dismayed by the proliferation of cannabis stores.

"Harm reduction" is a field of science. Some harm reduction strategies have been demonstrated effective and play a vital role in improving the lives of people who use substances, and generally are most useful for people with addiction. However, not everything that has been labelled as harm reduction has lived up to its promise. For example, “low tar” cigarettes were intended to reduce the risk of smoking, but research has found that they make no difference - addicted smokers get the same amount of nicotine and tar, and experience the same health problems whether they smoke regular or low tar cigarettes.

In my opinion, vaping is an example of failed harm reduction from a public health perspective. While the social messaging around the introduction of e-cigarettes was that they are a harm reduction strategy for addicted smokers, the marketing got very far ahead of the science. Even today, the long term health benefits for addicted smokers who switch to vaping are not fully known. Worse, we allowed vapes to be marketed to non-smoking teens, and for this group, they introduced harms rather than reducing them.

The real issue is that we should be wary of addictive products that are labelled "harm reduction", because the term can end up more of a marketing pitch than an effective intervention to improve health.

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