India’s eminent harm reduction advocate Samrat Chowdhery has been appointed as the President of the International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (INNCO), a global body of 34 national advocacy groups which has been recognized with UN observer status.
INNCO represents consumers of low-risk, alternative nicotine products, and promotes tobacco harm reduction (THR) at the global stage. The organization actively works on engaging consumers in the global THR discussions. In the process, it develops and strengthens member organizations of the community.
Talking about his new responsibility, Chowdhery said, “While harm reduction is a well-accepted intervention strategy in many fields, from addiction treatment to pandemic response, it is finding uncharacteristic opposition in tobacco use, which kills 8 million people every year. Our goal is to ensure consumers have a say in the framing of global tobacco policies as they are affected the most by them.”
Chowdhery, a former journalist, has been spearheading THR activities and campaigns in India as the founder of CHRA (Council for Harm Reduced Alternatives) and director of Association of Vapers India (AVI). CHRA and AVI have been advocating for risk reduction in tobacco use since 2016, stating that access to less harmful alternatives such as vaping, snus and heated tobacco can help mitigate the high tobacco burden in India.
Chowdhery was honored with the 'Advocate of the Year' award at the Global Forum for Nicotine (GFN) in Warsaw in June 2018. He has been invited to various international forums to speak on strategies to deal with the tobacco crisis. He was nominated to the governing board of INNCO two years ago.
INNCO was formed in 2016 when a consumer advocacy groups from across the world came together with the mission of representing the world’s 1.1 billion smokers and millions of users of lower-risk alternatives who often find themselves excluded from decisions that affect them severely. Since then, INNCO has made numerous representations at WHO and national levels, and has secured nearly a $1 million grant for 2020-21 for its advocacy work.
The other appointments made by INNCO include Ángeles Muntadas-Prim Lafita of Spain as Vice President, Rob de Lange of Netherlands as Secretary and Ingmar Kurg of Estonia as Treasurer.
Apart from the office bearers, Asa Saligupta from Thailand, Tomas O'Gorman from Mexico and Claude Bramberger from France have been added to the governing body.