No good basis on ENDS/ENNDS to ensure success

New Delhi’s CoP7 to the WHO FCTC is over and leaves a bitter taste to vapers who will probably have to wait for another year to have a chance to see the e-cigarette recognized by the WHO as a safer alternative to smoking. In any case, the event did not start on good bases with a highly controverted report.

Prohibition or regulation

press release issued by the WHO last week reports a “significant decision” on electronic cigarettes containing or not nicotine “invites Parties that have not yet banned the importation, sale and distribution of ENDS/ENNDS to consider either prohibition or regulating such products.” Some parties considered regulating e-cigarettes as tobacco products or as drugs with raising concerns about therapeutic claims used for their promotion.

In the gradation of regulating measures, the e-cigarette can apparently only be considered as a tobacco product, a drug or banned altogether. But the most liberal option that is to consider the e-cigarette as a consumer product, has even not been regarded as a valid option.

Yet, the WHO points out that “without strong tobacco control measures tobacco will kill about 1 billion people in the 21st Century.” Is repression the only way the WHO foresees tobacco control for the next decades? More concerning though, over 80% of the world’s tobacco-related deaths will be, by 2030, in low- and- middle income countries like India and the states that were the most reluctant to the e-cigarette at CoP7.

Scientific evidence is not enough

Clearly, neither advices of a panel of international tobacco harm-reduction experts nor the high quality of recent independent research on e-cigarettes, like the RCP report or the last Cochrane review, managed to persuade the Parties of the value of the e-cigarette in tobacco harm reduction. Instead, they “called for further unbiased, commercially independent and scientifically-based research to ascertain the overall health impact and long-term public health risks of ENDS/ENNDS.

The WHO, that has been blamed again for its lack of transparency, notes and deplores the interference of the tobacco lobbies in discussions. Some Parties, clearly engaged with this industry at a national level, tried to orientate the discussions towards a global ban on vaping – narrowly avoided – to serve their own interests. Tobacco industry’s efforts to undermine the implementation of WHO FCTC have been uncovered and Parties were urged to remain vigilant to potential infiltration attempts. The same infiltration also concerned NGOs that broadly disseminated the views of the most virulent anti-smoking-anti-vaping activists to encourage Parties to get tougher on vaping.

The long hours of debate and planning has produced a strong roadmap for global tobacco control for the future. Despite all the hard work by the Parties it is sad to see the interest, yet again, being promoted in the room. It is determined to undermine and distract us from our goal – to fight against the tobacco epidemic that not only damages health and kills people, but also impoverishes those living in low- to middle- income countries.Dr Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the Convention Secretariat
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PhD in science and journalist for the Vaping Post. Specialised in scientific topics.