As each year, we have drawn a free place from among those, who completed a feedback form after previous GFN conference.
This year, the lucky winner is Roberto A Sussman from Mexico. Roberto has kindly agreed to answer a couple of questions for us, and below you can read the whole interview.
- Please tell us a bit about yourself. What is your area of work?
I am a tenured researcher at the National University of Mexico (UNAM). My field is Theoretical Physics: General Relativity, Cosmology and Astrophysics. I got my PhD at Queen Mary College, University of London, 1987. My work involves publishing research articles, lecturing and supervising students every semester (undergraduate and graduate), peer-reviewing research articles (at least one per month) and science divulgation. As you see, it is a full time job.
- How did you hear about GFN? What made you decide to attend GFN 2017 and I hope this year?
I attended the previous GFN. I was invited to attend by NNA Sweden, with whom I had previous contact by email and from participation in internet forums. Luckily, I was already traveling to Poland for academic visits and a congress at the time (in Warsaw and Torun). Once there I got a very good impression of the conference. It was a meeting point where new ideas were amicably discussed by a whole range of different types of nicotine “stakeholders”: tobacco controllers favouring THR, scientists developing new THR products, regulators, economists, people from the tobacco industry, activists of consumer associations from all over Europe, North America, Australia/NZ, libertarian critics, etc. I hope to repeat this positive experience this year.
- How did you get interested in nicotine harm reduction, new nicotine products, or related topics? What is your area of particular interest?
I was very impressed to see how my son, a 2-pack a day cigarette smoker, completely switched to vaping two years ago with noticeable health improvement. I tried it and started to enjoy vaping more often (I still smoke a cigar or pipe every 2-3 days). Vaping is a disruptive technology, thus opposition to it by conservative tobacco control medical bureaucracies, married to the “abstinence only” paradigm, is natural (and to a point justifiable). However, the current obtuse opposition by the bulk of this bureaucracy is no longer acceptable, more so when it involves a massive disinformation campaign that recruits and encourages very dishonest junk science. This angers me very much. How many smokers like my son risk missing a golden opportunity to enjoy nicotine through a much safer product just because a cabal of ideologues believe that the world should be ridden of nicotine? As a veteran scientist I have the tools to understand the science behind THR and to counter the junk science that misinforms smokers like my son. I take this as a mission worth pursuing, starting in my own country, Mexico. Currently, I am providing scientific advise to vapers through a new all consumers association that will be actively advocating for THR. The GFN is the ideal forum where I can meet people of different walks of life sharing the same mission.
- Do you have some personal ideas, remarks about next GFN ?
Yes, I do have a very specific proposal. I would like to propose the creation of an online network of experts in different areas of THR to provide punctual advise to consumer associations (via email or videoconference) on medical and technical issues. Very often, as consumers, we are faced by total ignorance and zero support from local physicians and by ignorance or stubborn conservatism or plain junk science from our local health authorities. Being informed consumers we can argue back, as we are aware of the scientific evidence behind THR. Unfortunately, the authorities more often than not dismiss our arguments because we “lack the credentials”. However, they would not be so dismissive if we could show that our arguments are supported by a network of experts on the technical/medical issues. This support could be conveyed either by showing correspondence or by videoconferences. Vaping merchants and associations could even fund a “credentialed expert" coming here to argue with the authorities. I would venture saying that the situation I described prevails in all Latin American countries. Sooner or later we will be supported by some of our own local experts, meanwhile we need help from foreign experts.
Dr Roberto A Sussman
Department of Gravitation and Field Theories
Institute for Nuclear Research,
National Autonomous University of Mexico, ICN-UNAM