Welcoming Remarks by Prof. Dr. Achmad Sy

Assalamu'alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh

Selamat pagi dan salam sejahtera

Good Morning 

  1. Mr. Konstantinos Farsalinos, our Keynote Speaker
  2. Fellow scientists and academicians
  3. Panellists
  4. Ministry representatives
  5. Consumer associations
  6. Media 
  7. Ladies and Gentlemen

It is with great pleasure that I welcome all of you to Jakarta, Indonesia, home to the First Asia Harm Reduction Forum. I am very honoured to be in the midst of Asia_s leading thinkers who are present in this room today.

Allow me to start by introducing the Public Health Observer Foundation (YPKP) your host for today_s event. YPKP was founded back in 2015 consisting of scientists and academicians with a common concern to improve Indonesian public health. We received funding from Padjajaran University to conduct scientific research, seminar, and public advocacy to educate people on effective disease prevention and to help the Government in finding solutions for existing health problems. We have published studies on the subject, some of which were presented in the last Global Forum on Nicotine in Poland, where I had met some of you before.

One of the major health problems in Indonesia is caused by its extremely high cigarette consumption. In fact, smoking rate in Indonesia is one of the highest in the world today, reaching more than 57 million Indonesians. Today, Asia has the largest number of cigarette smokers anywhere in the world. Despite best efforts and various approaches by public health policies in fighting the cigarette smoking epidemic, in the region, smoking rates has stopped declining.  

However, in countries that promote the use of electronic cigarettes and heat-not-burn tobacco products such as Japan and the UK, smoking prevalence has been declining at a record speed. In the UK for example, 2.2 million smokers have quit smoking within 5 years. Japan has the world_s fastest decline in cigarette use since two years ago. The US FDA just announced this year that its anti-tobacco regulation will be fully geared towards harm reduction while New Zealand Ministry of Health just endorsed this month the use of electronic cigarettes.  

Because both Indonesia and Asia have such a big smoking problem, YPKP has dedicated extensive research on alternative tobacco and nicotine products as potentially the best solution to reduce public harm resulting from cigarettes . If new policies encourage harm reduced alternatives, the public health benefits can be unprecedented and even more so in Asian countries where smoking rates are high. We believe the Indonesian population, because of its towering smoking rate, could be one of the biggest health benefactors of tobacco harm reduction policies. 

Therefore, today, I am proud and very honoured to host the first Asia Harm Reduction Forum here in Jakarta, bringing together the best minds on the subject to exchange ideas, get better understanding, and find solutions for smokers addicted to cigarette. I believe the outcome of today_s forum will benefit Asia as many lives can be saved and health costs be reduced. 

New technologies and innovation today such as vape, nicotine patch, and heat-not-burn offer nicotine delivery with drastically reduced harm as the combustion process is taken out of the equation. This removes tar resulting from burning tobacco, which is responsible for the majority of smoking-related diseases. In Indonesia, we have observed that the number of electronic cigarette users continue to increase. This is a positive development. As more smokers switch from traditional cigarette to electronic ones, the public health benefit is expected to increase. A study in the US by Georgetown University Medical Center earlier this year showed that replacement of cigarette with e-cigarette use over 10 years period will save 6.6 million Americans from premature deaths. If the number is to be translated into Indonesian or Asian context, it could reach up to 20 million lives.  We have with us today, the consumer associations across Asia who can affirm the positive trend of e-cigarette consumption in their respected country. 

This trend, however, can be much accelerated. This is where public policy will come into place. Asian governments need to create policies and regulations that will encourage smokers to switch to less harmful nicotine products. Regulators need to catch up with these technological developments, as the potential health benefit is huge and they will need to understand the science behind those technologies. We have here with us today policy experts from all across Asia who will share their thoughts on how less harmful nicotine products should be regulated and why.

In today_s event we will also be discussing about the latest scientific development, research, and studies in the field of harm reduction. I believe science is at the core of the harm-reduction concept. On this note, I would like to invite the panellists and participants here to collaborate in conducting an Asian collaborative research on harm-reduction. Asia, with its high smoking-rates, will benefit the most from this. 

Without further ado, I would like to introduce our Keynote Speaker for this event, Cardiologist Konstantinos Farsalinos. I_m sure most of you are familiar with him and his works in the field of harm reduction. I first met Dr. Farsalinos back in 2016 in the first GFN I had attended. I was very impressed with his toxicology study on e-cigarette and said to myself, Indonesia and Asia will benefit a lot from what he has to say on the subject. Please help me to welcome him on the stage.

Thank you all for coming to Jakarta and have a great discussion. 

Assalamu'alaikum warahmatullahi wabarakatuh