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Activists worried as WHO gear up for new attacks on vaping

The World Health Organisation’s next tobacco control conference, FCTC COP 7, takes place in November. Last week organisers released most of the preliminary documents that discussions will be based on. This included the latest WHO report on electronic cigarettes. While not as openly prohibitionist as previous reports, its strongly negative tone already has vaping advocates worried.

Despite the huge amount of research that’s been done since COP 6 in 2014, including the game-changing Public Health England review last year, the WHO still takes an uncompromisingly precautionist view of vaping. Their report focuses on hypothetical or overblown risks – formaldehyde is mentioned – and on discredited research claiming that e-cigarette use makes it more difficult to quit smoking, and plays down the far more encouraging picture that’s emerged from large-scale reviews.

While positive evidence seems to have been ignored, some of the report’s wilder claims – such as that vaping “is expected to increase the risk of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, lung cancer, and possibly cardiovascular disease as well as some other diseases also associated with smoking” – don’t appear to be based on any evidence at all. There are also several references to open-system products that seem designed to tie in to recent EU and FDA regulations, which are heavily biased in favour of first-generation cigalikes. If this report has a role to play in policy making, more attacks on refillable devices could be in the pipeline.

New campaign will oppose FDA regulations

Three US vaping advocacy groups have announced that they will be forming a coalition with Americans for Tax Reform to campaign against the FDA’s draconian new rules on vapour products. The American Vaping Association, Consumer Advocates for Smoke-free Alternatives Association and Smoke Free Alternatives Trade Association aim to organise local campaigns against the worst aspects of the Deeming Regulations.

Beginning in October, the new alliance will be working to generate a national debate by launching the Right To Vape Tour. This will take them across the USA, hosting events in cities across the country. The plan is to start on the West Coast – home to California, where much of the alarmism comes from – and finish in Washington, D.C.

The campaign’s organisers say the top priority is to change the predicate date for vaping products. This is the “grandfather” date, and all products need to show that they’re “substantially equivalent” to one that was on the market before this or go through a cripplingly expensive approval process. Unfortunately, right now the predicate date is 15 February 2007. All that was on the market before then was extremely crude cigalikes, and even modern cigalikes aren’t even close to equivalent. Changing this date to August 2016 would be a big step towards saving vaping in the USA.

Polish vaping ban takes effect

Poland’s strict new vaping law, voted through in July, took effect on Thursday. From now on vaping is covered by the same restrictions as smoking; that makes it illegal to sell e-cigarettes to anyone below the age of 18, or to vape where smoking is prohibited. All advertising has also been banned, along with the same of vapour products online or from vending machines.

While Poland is required to obey the EU’s Tobacco Products Directive, the new laws go quite a bit further. The TPD doesn’t ban online sales, for example, or require vaping to be banned anywhere smoking is. Vaping is relatively popular in Poland with an estimated 1.8 million people using e-cigarettes; that’s close to the level of use in the UK and higher than most other EU countries.

Splits emerge in Australian Cancer Council as researcher slams vaping policy

Until very recently Australia’s health establishment has looked united in its anti-vaping views, some of the most draconian in the world. Cracks have started to appear over the last few weeks, however, as neighbour New Zealand starts to consider a more sensible policy. Now a leading researcher for the influential Cancer Council has said the current strict laws are difficult to defend – and dismissed anti-vaping science as “dodgy”.

Professor Ron Borland, in a major break with official Cancer Council policy, criticised lawmakers for treating e-cigarettes like heroin or cocaine while allowing tobacco to be freely sold. He joins more than three dozen other health experts who have written to the Therapeutic Goods Administration to support a proposal that would exempt e-liquid from Australia’s poison laws. The proposal comes from the New Nicotine Alliance Australia, who have built up a high public profile in fighting for vapers’ rights.

English council urged to ease vape restrictions

Bradford Council, one of several in England which has tried to ban its staff from vaping, is coming under pressure to back down on its hard-line stance. The council’s Conservative group, led by Councillor Simon Cooke, is calling on council leaders to pay attention to the PHE report.