The Helsinki meeting addressed both tobacco product regulation and the regulation of tobacco dependency treatment. The present summary provides some of the main conclusions of the rich discussion of issues provided by the presenters and other participants. Following the first conclusion, which struck the participants as absolutely fundamental, the order of the remaining conclusions does not necessarily reflect their priority.
- Tobacco control requires transnational strategies.
- Cigarettes are both highly addictive and toxic nicotine delivery devices. They warrant regulating of their physical characteristics and marketing strategies. The harms caused by cigarettes go well beyond the adverse effects upon their users, and therefore cigarettes should be subject to consumer protection laws and regulations that are more consistent with the dangers they pose.
- Cigarette consumers should be provided information regarding their actual exposure to dosages of tar, nicotine, carbon monoxide and other substances.
- The use and effects of additives in cigarettes needs to be assessed. Consideration should be given to banning the use of additives which health authorities deem unwarranted.
- Cigarettes advertised as “light” or “low tar and nicotine” have not been shown to provide health benefits implied by sure claims. Therefore, such claims are unacceptable.
- Tobacco industry documents need to be systematically reviewed, and their findings shared transnationally.
- Tobacco product regulation must occur in the broader tobacco control context, such as that of the WHO FCTC process.
- The participants concluded that the proposed European Commission Directive to regulate tar and nicotine levels and to prohibit the sale and marketing of “light” cigarette types is consistent with the conclusions of this conference.
- The participants viewed the various national and regional tobacco control approaches as positive developments; however the participants recognized the need to make efforts to ensure better transnational communication and coordination.
- The regulatory process must nurture a larger base of experts to cope with emerging issues in tobacco control.
- The regulatory process must be guided by the best available science. The effects of regulation must be tracked so as to maximize the health benefits and to minimize the unintended consequences, thereby fostering an environment conducive to self-correction.