For immediate release
23 February, 2023
INNCO views with concern what happened in Spain with the THR Summit Spain 2023, where apparently pressure from the Spanish Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation tried to prevent a much-needed debate on the role of Harm Reduction tools in a nation where the prevalence of people who smoke continues to increase.
Geneva, Switzerland, 23 February 2023 – A few months ago, the Spanish medical professional organisation “Plataforma para la Reducción del Daño por Tabaquismo” (which has no relation with INNCO) announced the Congress “THR Summit Spain 2023 Opportunities in the fight against smoking: a global vision from science” where scientific experts from Spain, USA, Canada, UK, Sweden, and Greece would meet. This activity was scheduled to take place in the Rey Juan Carlos University auditorium in Madrid today.
The Rector of the University, Javier Ramos, was supposed to open the event, but it has been reported that due to pressure from the Spanish Ministry of Health and the World Health Organisation, the University decided to withdraw from the event and not allow the scientific debate to be held on its premises.
There is a virtually global consensus that harm reduction products (including nicotine vaping devices, snus, nicotine pouches, and heated tobacco products) are massively less harmful than the traditional burning cigarette, as stated by more than 100 medical research bodies and health departments from different countries, on which three of the four countries with the least tobacco industry interference in the world (according to STOP’s analysis) are included, being these: New Zealand, United Kingdom, and France. And knowing that according to the Cochrane review (the gold standard of medical research by meta-analysis to randomised controlled trials), the use of nicotine vaping devices is almost twice as effective as traditional nicotine replacement therapy; this is validated by high certainty evidence; the importance of such information to communicate elevates because smoking still the number one cause of preventable death in the world and kills fifty-four thousand people in Spain.
The Spanish Ministry of Health currently knows that the prevalence of people who smoke recently rose to 32.3% and is at levels similar to 2009 (before the existence of an anti-smoking law); whatsoever, it decided to “recommend” the non-discussion and what looks like censorship of a conference that could be beneficial for public health and especially for the 10.5 million people who do not want or are unable to quit smoking in the Spanish nation.
INNCO and its 35 member organisations around the world believe that dialogue, interpretation of evidence, and monitoring of regulations in countries that are winning the battle against smoking is necessary, as stated in article 14, paragraph 64 of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control: “Parties should monitor and evaluate all tobacco cessation and tobacco dependence treatment strategies and programmes, including process and outcome measures, to observe trends. They should benefit from the experience of other countries through the exchange of information, in accordance with the provisions of Articles 20, 21 and 22 of the WHO FCTC.”.
INNCO calls on the Spanish government to open dialogue channels and stop the alleged censorship of the necessary discussion on the use of harm reduction strategies. This methodology has yielded favourable results in other countries concerning smoking cessation, as widely demonstrated during the Conference and in other areas such as illicit substance use and HIV.
With more than 700 attendees to the THR Summit Spain 2023: Eppur si muove (as the name changed after the apparent censorship) today, it’s clear that there is a genuine interest and need for this type of discussion to be held. Furthermore, after worldwide experts demonstrated solid evidence and data at the Conference, we think there is room and necessity for harm reduction approaches to be discussed in Spain to stop the increasing smoking prevalence among Spanish people.
As remarked by Dr. Fernando Fernandez Bueno, spokesperson for the ¨Plataforma para la Reducción de Daños por Tabaquismo¨, in the Conference closing statements: as with Galileo Galilei, Ignaz Semmelweis, and the Spanish Miguel Servet, history has always regret censorship with regards to innovation, medical practices improvements and science.