Tuesday, 22 June 2021

The WHO's war on vapers

I had an article up at ConHome last week about the WHO's forthcoming conference on tobacco and why vapers should care about it. 

The World Health Organisation’s decision last month to give a special award to India for banning the sale of e-cigarettes was proof that the agency has no intention of taking an ethical and evidence-based approach to tobacco harm reduction. This puts it squarely at odds with countries such as the UK and New Zealand which have successfully embraced vaping as part of their tobacco control strategy.

In November, the WHO will hold its ninth Framework Convention on Tobacco Control Conference of the Parties (COP9). The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is the first and, to date, only international treaty of the World Health Organisation. Adopted in 2003 and signed by 168 countries, it explicitly defines tobacco control as “a range of supply, demand and harm reduction strategies”. Unfortunately, harm reduction is unlikely to feature much at the conference, except as an object of derision and contempt.

.. But there is a phrase in medical ethics that is relevant to this debate: “Nothing about me without me”. Vapers have little chance of being even being allowed to view COP9 online, let alone being permitted to speak at it. Their only hope is to contact their elected representatives and demand that pressure be put on the FCTC to take a more open and evidence-based approach. COP meetings fly under the media’s radar and that is how the FCTC Secretariat likes it. It thrives in darkness.

Journalists should ask more questions about what goes on in these meetings. Governments which recognise vaping’s potential to lower smoking rates and save lives should make that case strongly at COP9. They should pick strong, articulate advocates as their delegates, not bureaucrats. If the WHO continues to spread misinformation about e-cigarettes and if COP9 is held in secret again, these governments should withdraw their funding of the FCTC Secretariat. The FCTC Secretariat should be put on notice. COP9 is the last chance for the WHO FCTC to mend its ways and operate as a transparent and evidence-based organisation. If it cannot be reformed, it should be disbanded.

The conference is being held entirely online this year. In a sane world, that would mean that it is live-streamed so everyone can see it. I doubt that will happen, but vapers need to make as much noise as possible because I have a feeling the hammer is going to fall quite soon.
As evidence, I present you with the recently published WHO Technical Report 1029 which mostly looks at heated tobacco products. It's a weighty document of more than 300 pages and must have taken someone quite a bit of time to write. They needed have bothered because the conclusions were preordained. In particular, it tells governments...
to apply the most restrictive tobacco control regulations to heated tobacco products (including the device), as appropriate within national laws, taking into account a high level of protection for human health;

to prohibit all manufacturers and associated groups from making claims about reduced harm of heated tobacco products, as compared with other products, or portraying heated tobacco products as an appropriate approach for cessation of use of any tobacco product and to ban their use in public spaces unless robust independent evidence emerges to support a change in policy;

to ban all commercial marketing of electronic nicotine delivery systems, electronic non-nicotine delivery systems and heated tobacco products, including in social media and through organizations funded by and associated with the tobacco industry;

to prohibit the sale of electronic nicotine delivery systems and electronic non-nicotine delivery systems in which the user can control device features and liquid ingredients (that is, open systems);

You can read the whole article here.

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