Friday, 14 October 2016

The WHO's Opposition to Tobacco Harm Reduction

Julian Morris has written a great report for Reason about the World Health Organisation's backwards attitude towards harm reduction. It is heavy on facts and includes an excellent primer on snus.

Here are a few samples:

On the WHO's abuse of the precautionary principle...
In general, the WHO demands an excessively high standard of evidence for new products. In Tobacco: Deadly in Any Form or Disguise it asserted: “For new products and for those under development, additional research is needed to understand more precisely whether their risks are the same as the products they would replace. Such research will take years, or even decades. Until such research is completed, the most prudent course is to assume that their health risks are extraordinarily high compared with any ordinary consumer product and to make every effort to prevent their use along with all other tobacco products.” Given that decades of data were already available on the effects of snus by the time the WHO published this, one wonders if any amount of data will ever be sufficient to persuade it of the merits of harm reduction products.

On the secretive dealing of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control meetings...

Articles 29, 30 and 31 of the FCTC’s Rules of Procedure permit certain “Observers” to “participate without the right to vote in public or open meetings of the Conference of the Parties and of its subsidiary bodies.” The rules state that Observers are also permitted to “speak” during open or public meetings of the Conference of the Parties (COPs) and subsidiary bodies.  This gives the appearance that the FCTC is extremely participatory — more so than most other intergovernmental agreements.

But actual, permitted participation in the FCTC is extremely narrow. The FCTC currently lists only 20 NGOs as Observers on its website. By contrast, the Framework Convention on Climate Change lists over 2,000 NGOs as Observers on its website. Moreover, there is essentially no participation by representatives of many affected groups, including users of tobacco and vape products, vendors, and farmers. Participation by IGOs has also been restricted; even Interpol has been denied Observer status, despite its expertise in combating illicit trade in tobacco — a key topic covered by the Convention.

And what the WHO should do...

If the FCTC is genuinely committed to the “right to health” then it must listen to those who are taking control of the things that determine their health — and to those who are helping them to do so. In other words, it should open itself up to participation by groups representing vapers, snus users, and companies producing these and other less harmful nicotine - containing products.

A more open, participatory FCTC would not produce papers in secret and make them available only a few weeks before COPs. Instead, it might issue a call for papers and encourage all parties with an interest in the issue to submit materials. It might then allow pu blic scrutiny of those papers and form a committee, the composition of which is determined by votes from a much enlarged group of Observers, who can then review submissions and form conclusions.

At the same time, if the FCTC is genuinely concerned about avoiding conflicts of interest, then the best approach is to open itself up to scrutiny. That means, at the very least, permitting journalists to attend all sessions of COPs and technical committees. Better yet, the FCTC might livestream all its proceedings over the Web — in much the way that the Framework Convention on Climate Change livestreamed its 21 st Conference of Parties.

You can download The WHO's Opposition to Tobacco Harm Reduction here.

Washington's Taxpayer Protection Alliance has also recently put out a report on the WHO: World Health Organisation in need of intensive care: World taxpayers funding failing international organisation.

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