It was the event not to be missed in June! The 6th edition of the Global Forum On Nicotine was held in Warsaw (Poland) from 13 at 15 June 2019 and had for motto It's time to talk about nicotine". For the occasion, lawyers, researchers, policy experts, consumers were on hand to discuss the latest research and regulatory barriers to reducing the risk of smoking. Only French speaker officially invited by the organization of the GFN, Zhou Zhenyi gives us his feedback and his impressions on this last edition.
INTERVIEW WITH ZHOU ZHENYI - OFFICIAL SPEAKER AT GFN19
Vapoteurs.net : Hello, Can you introduce yourself and explain the reason for your presence at Global Forum on Nicotine?
Zed : My name is Zhou Zhenyi but I am often nicknamed by my pseudonym "Zed". I am a tobacconist in the 4e arrondissement of Paris and specializes in reducing smoking risks. I was present at the GFN as an official speaker, an expert at the counter especially in increasing the smoker's motivation towards reduced risk products.
It was an honor for me to be invited and to be able to present my work. I also felt very proud to represent my country as the only French presenter this year. I also greatly enjoyed attending the various conferences that detailed the latest work of the biggest names in research and tobacco reduction activism.
Vapoteurs.net : What was the purpose of your intervention ?
I have invested a lot in reducing the risks of smoking since I learned about the subject, there is a little more than 18 months. By investing myself in it, I rediscovered my profession and I found a new pleasure to hold the counter day after day. It is extremely gratifying to help others, it is also characteristic of human nature. Man is a gregarious animal, we need this human contact. Helping others is even a basic human need. Indeed, the action of helping creates a delivery of oxytocin, serotonin and dopamine, the hormones of the reward, then pushing us to continue this cycle of mutual aid that structures our way of living in society. It's literally inscribed in our genes.
Very quickly, I created a blog, a YouTube channel and managed or managed working groups on Facebook or Wechat, according to everyone's preferences. These working groups only bring together professionals and create a real leverage effect in terms of the creation of effective sales outlets in the dissemination of information on the reduction of smoking risks.
Indeed, I think we are losing the media battle over the true information of reduced risk products. The idea was to inform the smokers directly, one by one, in the field, in the tobacco shops directly. They are given targeted information by going beyond traditional media. Because of the closeness a shopkeeper creates with his regulars, we come to establish a constructive dialogue and, little by little, that smokers become aware that there is an effective and inexpensive choice between smoking and stopping at "dry ": Tobacco risk reduction that focuses today mainly on the vape but not only.
Vapoteurs.net : What do you mean by the phrase "mainly on the vape but not that »?
I am also talking about hot tobacco and Snus. Heating tobacco is often decried because of "Big Tobacco". However, you have to be realistic and look at the facts. The tobacco to be heated is recognized by a large number of specialists, the same as for the vape, as a tool with reduced risks. Dr. Farsalinos was talking about it on Facebook during a live event and it was not a debate at the GFN.
Unfortunately, in its current form, tobacco to heat is rather marginalized in the French arsenal of tools at our disposal: devices that can be improved on several levels and consumables prices almost as high as cigarettes.
As for snus, it's tobacco or nicotine to diffuse. This is in a small bag no larger than a chewing gum that is positioned between the gum and the upper lip. It is very discreet and devilishly effective. Sweden has already completed its goal of a smoke-free society by reaching a rate of 5% of smokers. This Nordic country also has the lowest rate of lung cancer among men in Europe! This is not the case in women because, when we look at the statistics a little closer, we see that the population that consumes Snus is composed mostly of men.
By seeing such numbers, we can not ignore the impact of Snus, it is a complementary offer in the tools that can be offered to smokers. I have been fighting for months with the #euforsnus movement to legalize the product in the European Union where the product is banned (except in Sweden so). In November 2018, the movement had managed to go to the European Court of Justice to lift the ban. Unfortunately, it has been maintained. For those wishing to join the movement, there is a European Facebook group with which we will continue to promote the legalization of Snus in Europe.
Vapoteurs.net : In view of the products offered, the tobacco companies were also present at the show ?
Yes, especially the scientific branches of several tobacco companies who mainly attended the various discussions. It was interesting to talk to them on a scientific level and discuss the research they have already done.
So, yes, I can understand the controversy that exists especially in France by opposing the industry of the vape to that of tobacco. However, if I place myself strictly on the side of the consumer and therefore the smoker, I see a good eye the arrival of these financial funds from tobacco to the vape. I much prefer to see these funds invested in risk reduction, be it by buying or investing in companies defending the vape very effectively like Juul or in research that only these companies have the ability to drive at multiple levels: epidemiological studies , relative toxicology of all compounds including flavorings or lobbying governments, but in the right direction this time. For example, in New Zealand, which aims for an 5% 2025 smoker goal, Philip Morris has made a big step forward in the fight against smoking by legalizing tobacco to heat up. In this breach, the Snus and the vape were introduced and allowed to have a very optimistic horizon towards a society without smoke.
Vapoteurs.net : We could therefore trust the tobacco industries ?
Let it be clear, I am not a big Tobacco advocate, but as a public advocate and advocate for tobacco reduction, I take help where it comes from. It is obvious that distrust is on the information disclosed by the tobacco industry. After all, who does not remember the American anti-trust trials where all the presidents of the different cigarette companies denied the addiction created by their products?
What is important is that speech and actions remain free. Let's judge the content of what is reported before anything else whether it's an article, a video or a study. Only facts matter. We still have between 12 and 14 millions of smokers in France, I do not think I have the luxury to choose this or that support. What matters is that smokers are informed of the choices that exist on the market: the vape mainly, perhaps Snus tomorrow and why not the tobacco to heat in a more effective and successful version?
Take the example of Juul who received 12.8 billion dollars from Altria. At one point did Juul turn away from his mission to migrate smokers to his product that is a product of the vape? No. On the contrary, these funds have allowed this society to strengthen and accelerate the movement towards a smoke-free world.
In fact, there was a whole conference on this topic: "funding matters": it is much more important that the person or organization receiving the funding be transparent rather than the "cleanliness" of the source.
Marewa Glover perfectly presented this by showing in images the origins of funding. If it comes from the tobacco industry, the source is considered dirty. If it comes from the government through reinvested taxes, it would come from the sky! What counts, when one thinks with pragmatism, is that the sources exist and not their origin.
Moreover, the source of funds does not guarantee action for the benefit of consumers or even risk reduction. Take for example the action of the "Truth and the Campaign for Tobacco Free Kids" movement in the United States, which was one of the driving forces behind the ban on the San Francisco vape and those to come in other states US.
Vapoteurs.net : What did you like most during this GFN ?
Two crucial points: the exchanges with so many people passionate about their work and the fact of going completely out of the French / French vision to better understand the phenomenon at a global level:
- By talking with African activists, we get a little more aware of the reality of things in particular in Malawi and Nigeria
- There was Australia, too, where Dr. Attila Danko is trying to get around the ban on the sale of nicotine-containing liquids.
- Rebecca Ruwhiu-Collins works with the Maori population in New Zealand by strongly involving her community in the democratization of the vape and placing at the center of actions carried out consumers the Maori values that resonate effectively with the people targeted. Further proof that the vape is an alternative of smoked tobacco pushed by the consumers. - In the United States and the United Kingdom, several works have been carried out among the popular classes who smoke the most and who therefore most need to be addressed to them.
- With James Dunworth co-founder of ecigarettedirect.co.uk, it was interesting to see the similarities we had in our two countries on the need to inform correctly but also to apply basic principles for a greater Efficacy in smoking output: tight draw, high nicotine levels.
To conclude, I think that we will not be able to convince people to defend themselves. Knowledge can not be enforced by force in a brain, it must be absorbed from within, with the consent of the person. Before you can build an idea in someone's mind, you need his permission, which is basically normal.
One of the pillars of risk reduction, not just smoking, is "Enpowerment," literally the power to decide for yourself. For a smoker, the path always begins with the conscious decision to try a reduced risk product. It is at this point that all expertise will intervene to provide the keys to success through shared information.
We thank Zhou Zhenyi for his participation in this interview, find him on his official blog. To find out more about the latest edition of the Global Forum On Nicotine, we invite you to consult our full article on the subject.