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Journal of Health Inequalities
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vol. 3

Report from the seminar on the past, present, and future of tobacco control, Harvard University Department of the History of Science, Cambridge, Massachusetts, October 2016’

Mateusz Zatoński, Michał Stokłosa

J Health Inequal 2017; 3 (1):16–23
Online publish date: 2017/06/30
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The roundtable seminar on the past, present, and future of tobacco control took place in October 2016 at the Harvard University Science Center. It was hosted by Professor Allan Brandt and the Harvard University Department of the History of Science, and co-organised by the Polish Health Promotion Foundation (Fundacja “Promocja Zdrowia”). The event brought together a range of international public health leaders and scholars, including health economists, political scientists, historians of science, health advocates, and policymakers. During the seminar the extensive range of regional and disciplinary expertise of the guests was drawn upon to generate broad, strategic thinking on the history and perspectives of tobacco control, as well as future research and collaboration ideas. The main goals of the meetings were:
1. To identify the key learning opportunities emerging from historical research for global tobacco control leaders and health advocates.
2. To appraise the current challenges to effective tobacco control efforts globally.
3. To initiate collaboration on a roadmap for the future of global tobacco control.


Historically, harm reduction in tobacco control was a relatively minor issue. Apart from nicotine replacement therapies (NRT) and some forms of smokeless tobacco, no nicotine-containing product had the potential to reduce the harm of tobacco use. This changed with the introduction of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS) into the marketplace in the mid-2000s. As these products – the most popular to date is the electronic or e-cigarette – have become increasingly prevalent, it is clear that we must address the central issues raised by their exponential growth in the marketplace. A historical aversion towards harm reduction approaches exists within a significant segment of the public health community in the United States (US) [1]. Seminar participants were asked to consider whether harm reduction approaches are more favoured by tobacco control advocates in other parts of the world, and, if so, why this is the case.
Allan Brandt noted that while we often talk about a Euro-American-Australian consensus on tobacco control and positive changes in tobacco-related behaviours in these parts of the world, the fact is that the cultures of tobacco control remain very different between these regions. For example, the differences between the...

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