Tuesday 9 November 2021

The Bloomberg Health Organisation


The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organisations (INNCO) has published an excellent document about the WHO, vaping and the malign influence of evil billionaire Mike Bloomberg. It gives a good overview of how the WHO and its COP meetings on tobacco are subverted by anti-nicotine prohibitionists and looks at the dodgy dealings of Bloomberg's myriad front groups. It also collects a lot of handy quotes and sources in one place.

I strongly recommend reading it all, but for now here are its eight recommendations for reform.

1. All recipients of funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies (NGOs and journalists) should disclose their funding as a potential conflict of interest, because the funding is from a known anti-vaper and opponent of tobacco harm reduction

2. We endorse the creation of an FCTC Tobacco Harm Reduction Working Group, in line with Article 1 (d) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, which defines tobacco control as a “range of supply, demand and harm reduction strategies that aim to improve the health of a population by eliminating or reducing their consumption of tobacco products and exposure to tobacco smoke”.

As the APPG for Vaping in the UK has proposed, such a group needs to look at all the science and evidence for new and emerging products. It should comprise both independent experts and informed consumers, including scientists and academics from countries leading the way in the use of, and research on, electronic nicotine delivery systems and other safer nicotine alternatives. It should also include former smokers who use safer nicotine. These individuals should not be affiliated with organisations with a vested interest (e.g., vaping or tobacco firms, Bloomberg or the WHO).

3. All member states of the FCTC Treaty should, in an open letter to the WHO, collectively question this UN agency’s prohibitionist approach to safer nicotine alternatives, challenging the evidence-base and demanding a more open mind to the possibilities of new nicotine alternatives.

In its recent report, the Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction says that parties to the FCTC have largely been content to follow the direction of travel set out by the WHO on tobacco and nicotine policy pointing out that this is not the same with other significant global issues such as trade and climate, where national governments fight strongly for national positions and leadership.

If nothing changes at COP9 and WHO remains steadfast in its position on such low risk products and continues its hardline stance on vaping and other ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) products, despite the mounting evidence and growing recognition of the positive impact of ENDS to public health across the world, we propose the strongest action possible to ensure the message gets through and puts the organisation in a very isolated and difficult position, namely:

• those countries funding its existence should look to withdraw its financial support as British politicians have called for;

• that the Parties to the Convention (the 181 countries that have signed and ratified the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the international agreement response to the international nature of the public health crisis caused by tobacco use and smoking) seriously consider boycotting future COPs until WHO demonstrates a much more open minded stance on vaping and other ENDS products.

This might come across as too heavy-handed and disrespectful to the World Health Organisation, but every government across the world has a duty of care to its people, and shutting the door on new nicotine products that have the potential to change the lives of so many who currently smoke, would be akin to neglecting that duty.

As Christopher Snowden [sic] concludes in the Institute of Economic Affairs report on COP9: “The FCTC Secretariat should be put on notice. COP9 is its last chance to mend its ways and operate as a transparent and evidence-based organisation. If it cannot be reformed, it should be disbanded.”

4. An agreement needs to be put in place with WHO and Bloomberg Philanthropies that they are transparent in relation to their collaborations on tobacco control and implement the recommendations proposed by Wellcome Open Research as highlighted earlier in this document.

5. The Parties to the Convention need to force future COP meetings to be far more transparent and inclusive so that they are truly representative and take on board wide ranging perspectives from different stakeholders. In both the UK and USA, policy decisions that affect people living with HIV/AIDS are made with representatives from that community at the table. This should be no different.

Meetings should be open to all those that can provide vital perspectives on tobacco control including the role of ENDS products, such as leading independent scientists and academics, health protection bodies and adult former smokers who have quit their habits by switching to an ENDS product.

6. A full international review, involving an independent body with no vested interests, needs to look at the reported influence that Bloomberg Philanthropies has on low to middle-income countries (LMICs) in the wake of related allegations in the Philippines.

7. The WHO must immediately review its Q and A on vaping, which is seriously misleading and inaccurate and doing a disservice for the 1.1bn smokers worldwide who may be thinking about quitting their habit through using ENDS devices. The Q and A should be based on the wide ranging evidence that has been provided by some of the most respected healthcare protection bodies, academic institutions and scientists in the field of harm reduction. This could, for example, be done in consultation with past-Presidents of the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco.

8. More responsible and balanced reporting in the media - whilst some high profile media outlets have questioned and challenged the anti- vaping stance by WHO, most notably The Times (Anti-Vaping Advice by WHO “Risks Lives Of Millions”), Forbes (The War on E-Cigarettes is Profoundly Wrong) and the Spectator (WHO’s bizarre war on E-Cigarettes), many are content on running sensationalist, clickbait-led reports on vaping that have very little, if any, foundation.

There are many occasions that the media has turned a blind eye to pro-vaping reports such as the peer-reviewed publication from 15 past-Presidents of the world’s top professional society in the field of tobacco control, the Society for Research on Nicotine and Tobacco (SRNT). It is by far the most important publication in the field of tobacco harm reduction since the 2015 report from the UK’s Royal College of Physicians. Yet not one major media outlet has covered it. A more responsible media should investigate evidence fully, consult independent experts who favour tobacco harm reduction (not just opponents), and give equal air to research findings and claims from academic researchers, vape firms, the tobacco industry, and all Bloomberg grantees including the WHO.

Download it and read the whole thing. Also, read this by Clive Bates.

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