The World Health Organisation’s (WHO) latest Tobacco Product Regulation (TobReg) Report has failed to consider all the scientific evidence in favour of tobacco harm reduction strategies, such as the use of electronic cigarettes and heated tobacco products, reinforcing the agency’s counterproductive stance on smoking cessation.

CAPHRA, a coalition of safer nicotine consumers in the Asia Pacific region, has previously denounced the “concerning” report for lack of transparency. “The recommendations in this report may further hinder effective access to lower-risk products as a result of the Study Group’s Report in a region of the world with the most harm from combustible and unsafe oral tobacco use,” said the tobacco harm reduction group.

“WHO’s negative and obstructive approach towards safer nicotine vaping products continues to impact smoking cessation rates, costing lives globally. WHO continues to treat smoking and nicotine vaping as the same and ignores all the science,” said Executive Coordinator of the association, Nancy Loucas.

Subsequently, CAPHRA’s Expert Advisory Group has written to Asia Pacific’s government health leaders including Thailand’s Anutin Charnvirakul; The Philippines’ Dr Francisco T. Duque III; New Zealand’s Andrew Little; Australia’s Greg Hunt; Hong Kong’s Sophia Chan; Indonesia’s Dr Budi Gunadi Sadikin; Malaysia’s Dr Adham Bin Baba; Taiwan’s Shih-Chung Chen; and India’s Dr Harsh Vardhan.

The letter warns that the WHO’s study group is not acting in public health’s best interests by recommending bans on all aspects of vaping that are the cornerstone of its effectiveness. “Vaping has been critical in helping smoking adults move away from a product that has a 50% chance of killing them to the safer alternative that has less than a 10% chance of causing harm.”

TobReg fails to provide credible guidance based on science

In their expert opinion, the group of scientists, researchers, and harm reduction policy advocates say TobReg does not provide credible guidance based on science and evidence. The group added that this is unacceptable as health leaders require evidence-based recommendations to guide their development of pragmatic, risk-proportionate public health regulations. “We respectfully ask that when it comes to decision making around Tobacco Harm Reduction you continue to rely on the international and independent evidence first and foremost as the science,” wrote CAPHRA’s Expert Advisory Group.

The group added that that the region’s health leaders and their colleagues should review the most recent report from the Royal College of Physicians UK. “This report from RCP UK discusses how to embed risk-proportionate regulations into tax policy and public health promotion. It embraces tobacco harm reduction in a pragmatic way which seeks to provide guidance for real world implementation,” they explained.

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