In a press release issued on 30 May, the WHO’s World No Tobacco Day, the New Nicotine Alliance piled criticism on the misleading messages used to mark the day. NNA chair Sarah Jakes highlighted the remarkable success of reduced-harm nicotine products in countries where their use is freely allowed.
Jakes pointed out that, in the UK, the rise of vaping has been matched by a record fall in the country’s smoking rate. The USA and France have also seen large falls in their smoking rates, with a million French people quitting cigarettes between 2016 and 2017. Meanwhile Norway and Sweden both have extremely low numbers of male smokers, thanks to the popularity of snus in those countries – and Sweden has the lowest lung cancer rate in the EU.
World No Tobacco Day was launched by the WHO in 1988, with the aim of encouraging smokers to abstain for 24 hours. Jakes argues that this conflicts with the organisation’s stated commitment to harm reduction, and that by focusing on tobacco rather than smoke it is deterring smokers from finding safer alternatives.
Jakes said, “On World No Tobacco Day, it is time for leadership from the WHO in educating governments that e-cigarettes are not tobacco products as some states wrongly categorise them, and emphasising that it is the act of lighting tobacco and smoking it which is harmful to heart and cardiovascular disease, not tobacco in all its forms.” She also called for the WHO and other NGOs to show a greater commitment to removing ideological opposition to consumer-led solutions and to recognise the fact that nicotine is, and will remain, a popular recreational drug. NNA say the focus should be on the harms of inhaling smoke, not on tobacco or nicotine.