“I am an accidental voice in the vaping world,” began Dr. Mark Tyndall, a professor at the University of British Columbia School of Population and Public Health.
“For the most part, my world of harm reduction did not include cigarette smoking.”
Yet the epidemiologist’s world of harm reduction has been a big one throughout a long career: Some of his key contributions from his home city of Vancouver, Canada have included being the co-lead investigator in the evaluation of Insite, North America’s first sanctioned safe consumption site, and pioneering the safe supply of opioids, including through a “vending machines” project on which Filter has reported.
To those who support both tobacco harm reduction and harm reduction in general—and who see how the former is sometimes siloed—Dr. Tyndall’s address to the Global Forum on Nicotine was therefore particularly welcome. The annual event, moved online due to pandemic travel restrictions, took place on June 11 and 12, attracting over 1,400 remote delegates to hear dozens of international speakers.
“In fact, I always considered that smoking cigarettes was a form of harm reduction,” continued Tyndall (whose full presentation, courtesy of conference organizers Knowledge-Action-Change, can be watched above). “Among the thousands of people I have met who inject drugs, essentially everyone smokes cigarettes. For them, nicotine was a way to fill the time and calm the nerves in between fixes.”
“However, at the same time, it was painfully obvious that cigarettes were killing people—more than HIV, more than hepatitis C, and even more than the catastrophic overdose epidemic that has been sweeping through North America.”
Tyndall noted that the threat of “slow, insidious” death from smoking was not a great change-motivator for populations with more urgent concerns, and that “another reason to avoid the topic of smoking was because, at least until vaping, there was not much to offer.”
Filter – June 17, 2020.