HIFA launches a deep-dive discussion on Tobacco, 27 February - 3 April 2023

16 February, 2023

Imagine a world where every child, every citizen, every health worker and every policymaker truly understood the devastating health, economic, social and environmental impact of tobacco. A world where every person had access to the information they need to protect their own health and the health of others.

Tobacco is the theme of our first thematic discussion on substance use disorders, starting 27 February (the 18th anniversary of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) and running for 5 weeks. The World Health Organization notes that tobacco kills up to half of its users – more than 8 million deaths each year. More than 7 million of those deaths are the result of direct tobacco use while around 1.2 million are the result of non-smokers being exposed to second-hand smoke.

All stakeholder groups – citizens, health workers and policymakers – have a need for reliable information to prevent and manage tobacco addiction. We shall explore the information and learning needs of the general public, health workers and policymakers worldwide. What can be done to raise awareness among the public, and especially young people? How can professional education be improved to ensure health workers are adequately prepared (for example, what are health workers’ knowledge and practice with regards to Very Brief Advice)? How can policymakers be supported to deliver evidence-informed policy and practice? What measures are currently working and how can they be strengthened?

We shall consider all forms of tobacco use, including not only cigarettes but also other products such as chewing tobacco which are prevalent in some countries. And we shall also consider vaping, a hot topic with a wide range of strongly held views.

The discussion will take place on the HIFA forums, a global health community of more than 20,000 professionals representing all parts of the global evidence ecosystem, interacting in four languages and working in official relations with WHO.

Here are the five guiding questions for the discussion (these questions are intended only as a guide – you are welcome to discuss other aspects of tobacco use)

1. Do people understand the health, socio-economic and environmental harms of using tobacco products? What matters to them? How can they be better informed?

2. Do health workers have adequate knowledge to prevent and treat tobacco addiction among their patients? What matters to them? How can they be better informed?

3. What is the role of the tobacco industry? What can be done to address misinformation from the tobacco industry?

4. Do public health professionals and policymakers have adequate knowledge to prevent and treat tobacco addiction in their country? What are current national policies and what more can be done to fully implement those policies?

5. What are the pros and cons of electronic nicotine delivery systems (ENDS; vaping) (eg as an aid to stop smoking; as an addictive alternative to smoking among young people)?

To join the discussion, if you are not already a HIFA member, please join us! www.hifa.org/joinhifa

To contribute to the discussion, just send your comment by email to: hifa@hifaforums.org  Once approved, your email will be distributed to HIFA’s 20,000 members.

Note that we are also hosting parallel discussions on HIFA-French, HIFA-Portuguese and HIFA-Spanish, as well as our dedicated child health forum (CHIFA) in English. Please see our website for details: www.hifa.org

Acknowledgement: HIFA is grateful for sponsorship from NextGenU.org and the Ulrich and Ruth Frank Foundation for International Health. NextGenU.org and the Frank Foundation provide free health science certificate courses, and a free/low-cost Master’s degree in Public Health to learners in every country through over 1,200 institutions. Institutions may adopt these courses and individual learners may access them for free.