Tarik Freitekh on What It’s Like to Be a Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocate in the US

Tobacco hurts and kills people. In fact, smoking causes about 1 in 5 deaths in the United States.
There are many forms of tobacco on the market, and people often think some forms are safe and don’t cause health problems. This isn’t true.

Other tobacco products, like e-cigarettes, hookahs, edibles, heat-not-burn cigarettes, and smokeless tobacco, contain some of the same chemicals as regular combustible cigarettes. It’s important to know that even though e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) classifies them as “tobacco products.

Tarik Freitekh is a successful American businessman, director, and producer. After his experience in the tobacco industry he realized how harmful tobacco can be and started advocating on tobacco harm. He helped co-found and promote many independent, nonprofit, tax-exempt, and private foundations committed to reducing deaths and diseases caused by smoking. His mission is to end smoking in this generation. To achieve this goal on a truly global scale, he strives to identify and address the unique needs of the developing world as they relate to tobacco cessation and harm reduction.

More than 30 years since the first World No Tobacco Day (WNTD), there are still 8 million annual deaths attributed to tobacco use and more than 1 billion individuals still smoke. These facts are proof that health policies and actions have not been adequate. The challenges that smokers face when trying to quit have been largely ignored. The calls by the World Health Organization (WHO) for smokers to quit using fairly ineffective interventions suggest we need new approaches. Technology innovation, in the form of harm reduction, offers a new way forward for smokers that complements classic cessation efforts.

Freitekh believes we need to explore, test, and embrace new ideas if we want to accelerate progress toward a smoke-free world.

More than a billion people still smoke worldwide, and more than eight million smokers die each year. We are committed to helping smokers with their addiction to cigarettes and other forms of tobacco. To this end, we collaborate with other nonprofit, advocacy, and government organizations to advance smoking cessation and harm reduction science. We also support the development of alternative products and methods that may reduce users’ current health risks and help them to stop smoking entirely.

Freitekh knows that most smokers want to quit, but many struggle, with typical success rates lower than 10 percent. He also knows that the number of smokers worldwide is virtually the same as it was 15 years ago, despite well-coordinated global tobacco control policies and educational efforts to prevent smoking. A new and better solutions, applied nimbly and rapidly, to combat this global health epidemic is needed.

Another great foundation is FSFW. FSFW funds research, promotes innovation, and supports collaborative initiatives to accelerate progress in reducing harm and deaths from smoking. The Foundation also serves as a convener of global research supporting the reduction of tobacco use, while helping to address the impact of decreased smoking rates on agriculture and economies.

The Foundation’s work focuses on three core areas: Health, Science, and Technology (HST); Agriculture and Livelihoods; and Industry Transformation.

• HST strives to advance global tobacco research by investing in institutions and projects in countries where most smokers live. To complement ongoing tobacco control efforts, HST supports the development of innovative cessation and harm reduction tools.

• Agriculture and Livelihoods aims to diversify tobacco-dependent economies through our Agricultural Transformation Initiative. This work has begun in Malawi with the launch of the Centre for Agricultural Transformation and a number of other programs.