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The Fondation Brocher is an essential player in this vital thinking process: one which will help make us aware of the real challenges in using our resources for maximum impact on the health of the people of the world.



Professor Daniel Wikler, Harvard University


The Brocher Foundation is a Swiss non-profit private foundation  recognized of public interest. Your donations are tax deductible according to the regulations in force.

Summer or winter school


  • Hurst Samia, University of Geneva
  • Wikler Dan, Harvard University
  • Eyal Nir, Harvard University
  • Magalhaes Monica, Harvard University


Ethics and nicotine: moral dimensions of harm reduction

Schedule:Place:, New York University

Allan Brandt, Brown University

Dorothy Hatsukami, Harvard University

Derek YachSmoking has long ranked first among preventable risk factors for premature mortality worldwide. Since the start of the 21 century, rates of cigarette smoking have declined in developed countries, the WHO has adopted its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), and a growing number of developing countries are adopting anti-smoking measures. These encouraging developments were made possible by a unified tobacco control field, in which scientists, activists and officials have worked together towards the common goal of eliminating tobacco smoking. However, even accounting for these recent achievements, WHO estimates that smoking will kill one billion people before the end of this century if current trends persist, a staggering global health toll.


More recently, the tobacco control field has become deeply divided over the question of how to respond to the advent of e-cigarettes, vaporizers and other non-combustible nicotine products. These products have the potential to help smokers who cannot or will not quit tobacco, by delivering nicotine without the toxic constituents of tobacco smoke. However, health risks from long-term use of these products (such as cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases) are unknown and may be serious. The same may be true for “second-hand” vapor inhaled by others. Moreover, non-smokers enticed by these products may become nicotine addicts who  may go on to smoke. The tobacco control field has split over how these products ought to be regulated. This dilution of tobacco control’s single-mindedness potentially threatens the field’s effectiveness against the disease burden caused by tobacco, jeopardizing much-needed future progress.


Though most of the debate focuses on empirical matters, such as different estimates of the toxicity of these products and of their likely effects on smoking habits, the two sides also disagree on what weight should be assigned to some of these estimates in devising public health regulatory policy. Further ethical disagreements in this debate may include the relative priority of protection for non-smokers from tobacco (“prevention”) vs. that of helping those who do smoke to reduce their health risks (“treatment”); weighing benefits to current smokers against those of potential future smokers; discounting the relative importance of future lives saved in relation to present lives; factoring in the moral importance, if any, to be attached to personal responsibility of the smoker for the decision to initiate and continue smoking; and judging how much weight should be given to sheer numbers of lives saved in deciding how to respect other basic ethical concerns of public health.

At the 2018 Brocher Summer Academy in the Ethics of Global Population Health, key global experts in ethics, tobacco control and other academic fields of relevance to this issue will lecture and lead discussions with talented scholars and practitioners for five full days. Our aim is to identify relevant ethical disagreements, address them explicitly and attempt to resolve them through evidence and ethical reasoning, and thereby make a contribution to restoring unity in this important area of global population health.


Our tradition has been to follow the close of the conference with several days in the Swiss Alps, hiking from one mountain hut to another. Though the routes are challenging, some of the most fruitful discussions have taken place on the trail. General fitness is required, but no technical expertise. If you might be interested in joining the hike, please let us know in your response and in several months we will send you an email with details on our route.


 40 scholars (faculty, post-doctoral fellows and advanced graduate students) in philosophy, public health, economics and other social sciences, the biomedical sciences, and global health, and practitioners and professionals in public health and global health, selected from applications.


The application form, which can be found by clicking “Inscription à l'événement” (or “Apply to participate”) on this page, should be accompanied by a short CV, one writing sample, and a one-paragraph description of your current research interests.


For details and clarifications, please write to Monica Magalhaes, at

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