The WHO commends countries which have endorsed their framework and ideology, despite failing to obtain their smoke-free objectives as a result (such as India), and criticises countries which have not, despite having achieved record low smoking rates.
To date there are countless scientific peer reviewed studies indicating the effectiveness of using safer nicotine alternatives such as e-cigarettes and snus, in order to reduce harm and aid smokers in their quitting journey. In a 2018 press release, Public Health England (PHE) had released findings from a major e-cigarette review conducted by leading independent tobacco experts.

This release had updated the organization’s original 2015 vaping report, confirming that vaping is at least 95% safer than smoking. And once again, the PHE’s seventh and latest independent report on vaping, has reiterated that vaping is the most commonly used method to quit smoking. By endorsing the use of vaping products, the UK has in recent years acheived the lowest ever smoking rates since the advent of cigarettes.

Sweden is another country that has fully endorsed tobacco harm reduction. Thanks to allowing the use of such safer alternatives, Sweden has successfully reached its aimed for tobacco-free status back in 2018, whilst boasting the lowest tobacco-related cancer rates within Europe.

The WHO FCTC ignores science

Ignoring all this scientific data, sadly the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC), has become synonymous with a forbidding and ineffective stance, which completely disregards the concept of tobacco harm reduction. To add insult to injury, the WHO commends countries which have endorsed their framework and ideology, despite failing to obtain their smoke-free objectives as a result (such as India), and criticises countries which have not, despite having achieved record low smoking rates.

Discussing the findings from Europe, the new WHO report fails to link the positive strives forward in reducing smoking rates, to the fact that many young people are using safer alternatives instead. On the contrary, it declares the products the new enemy.

“E-cigarettes and other novel and emerging nicotine- and tobacco-containing products, such as heated tobacco products (HTPs), are the next frontier in the global tobacco epidemic. While the latter is a tobacco product, e-cigarettes do not contain tobacco, and may or may not contain nicotine. Nonetheless, there is clear evidence that these products are addictive and harmful to health. HTPs expose users to toxic substances and chemicals, similar to those found in cigarette smoke, many of which can cause cancer, while e-cigarette use increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and lung disorders.”

“Some countries that monitor e-cigarette use among young people have shown marked increases over the years. In Italy the prevalence of current e-cigarette use increased from 8.4% in 2014 to 17.5% in 2018, in Georgia – from 5.7% in 2014 to 13.2% in 2017, while in Latvia it was 9.1% in 2011 and 18% in 2019,” adds a WHO release, whilst failing to put this data in perspective by mentioning how it relates to decreased smoking rates. Infact in 18 of the 24 countries surveyed (including Italy and Latvia), smoking rates decreased.

The WHO used ‘World No Tobacco Day’ to attack vaping

To the shock, but not surprise of many, last June the WHO used its World Health Organisation’s World No Tobacco Day (31 May 2020) to attack low-risk alternatives to smoking. This action had once again compelled several international health experts to criticize the agency’s stance and agenda.

Harm reduction expert and executive director for CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia-Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) Nancy Loucas had explained that sadly the WHO’s position has been influenced and compromised by vested interests that provide funds to the organisation, such as pharmaceutical companies selling NRTs like patches.

Similarly, in response to the attacks on vaping launched on World No Tobacco Day, the following harm reduction and health experts had written critical comments:

  • Professor David Abrams, School of Global Public Health, New York University
  • Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole, University of Aukland, New Zealand and former Director of Department of Chronic Diseases and Health Promotion, World Health Organization
  • Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa, United States
  • Professor Tikki Pangestu, University of Singapore and Former Director, Research Policy & Cooperation, World Health Organization
  • Professor John Britton, University of Nottingham and Director, UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies
  • Professor Rajesh Sharan, University of North-Eastern Hill, India
  • Adjunct Professor David Sweanor, University of Ottawa, Canada
  • Clive Bates, Counterfactual and former Director Action on Smoking and Health, UK

This initiative was coordinated by Iowa Attorney General Miller‘s office. AG Miller was a leading figure in the US states’ historic lawsuit against the tobacco industry leading to the Master Settlement Agreement. He has retained an interest in the issue, with a particular focus on the interests of consumers.

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In-house journalist covering international vaping news.