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Public health advocates opine that tobacco is a “special case,” because tobacco is the only consumer product that when used exactly as intended is lethal. Further, they posit that it is unconscionable to market an addictive product to youth who are not competent to make informed judgments about long-term risks in the face of perceived short-term benefits. Finally, an undeniable history of suppression of information about the health risks of tobacco and tobacco product design changes leads many to seriously question any assessment of harm reduction potential by the manufacturers of the products. Just as harm reduction with respect to illicit drugs has been hurt by its association with the legalization movement, so too has the tobacco companies’ use of false messages about the benefits of light and filter-tipped cigarettes created suspicion in the field of tobacco control. Therefore, the burden of proof for a benefit of novel, potential exposure or harm reduction tobacco products entails special considerations beyond that required of many other scientific questions.
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The research is quite clear that drug use has not increased in countries and jurisdictions where drug use has been decriminalised. What does increase is the number of people seeking assistance and treatment.
HRA neither condemns nor condones drug use. People throughout history have used psychoactive substances and will continue to do so. Rather than cast judgment on people who use drugs, HRA believes that we should reduce the harms associated with drug use and provide opportunities for people to stop using drugs if they choose to do so.
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Some studies have determined that thousands of Australian lives have been saved and many more improved because of harm reduction programs. Globally, the number is difficult to quantify but it is reasonable to assume that probably millions of lives have been saved.
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Some economists argue that harm reduction programs, such as needle and syringe programs, have seen the most cost effective use of government money in Australia’s history. $27 is returned for each $1 spent. The money we spend on policing and prisons for drug users is certainly much less cost-effective.
reduce the use of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs in the community;
Whether the intervention conveys symbolic approval of the undesired behavior. Allowing cigarette manufacturers to market cigarettes with the claim of lower carcinogens requires the government to approve the act of smoking cigarettes, even if accompanied by warning signs, just as do condom programs for kids (underage sex) and needle exchange for addicts (injecting drug use). Other interventions have no such effect. NRT meets a physiological need through such different mechanisms that they
What is harm minimisation and how does it relate to RSA?
There are likely to be more people willing to seek help and treatment but the costs of this increase would be offset by both reduced expenditure within the criminal justice system and longer-term health savings from earlier treatment. For instance, increasing access to pharmacotherapy programs, assisting peer-based user organisations and establishing needle and syringe programs all contributed to our low infection rates that have saved millions of dollars.
Lowering the inherent harmfulness of a broad class of products
The evidence is quite clear that harm reduction programs, such as needle and syringe programs or heroin prescription programs, do not lead to an increase in drug use. There is research that shows such programs can actually lead to a decrease in drug use.