The WHO FCTC has been aware since October that it lacked a venue or conference planning, yet it waited until the week before the conference to cancel it.
Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) announced that the tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) and the third session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP3) to the Protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products, were going to be delayed until 2024.

The abrupt decision, which was announced only a week before the events were meant to be held, was reportedly prompted by a communication from Panama, the designated host country, citing an ongoing precarious security situation. The sessions are allegedly to be rescheduled to February 2024, with precise dates yet to be set.

Experts in the field were of course sceptical about the postponement from the get go. And now the Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) has reported that while the official reason for the postponement was cited to be security issues, it has been revealed that the government terminated the unfulfilled CoP10 organization contract, allocated with US$5 million by the Panamanian Ministry of Health, at the end of October.

The WHO FCTC has dismissed months of preparation by attendees

CAPHRA has condemned the systemic failures that led to this postponement given that the WHO FCTC, aware since October that it lacked a venue or conference planning, waited until the week before the conference to cancel it. The group added that this action shows a disregard for member states and a dismissal of months of preparation by attendees.

Discussing the postponement, public health expert Clive Bates told Vaping Post that he believes there is “a non-negligible possibility” that the event organizers will not manage to host the event in Panama by February, and that if they actually do, the conference will be “chaotic.” “The chances are that the new time was agreed for face-saving reasons by senior officials in the government of Panama and the FCTC Secretariat without much concern for practicalities. It’s a big meeting just to switch around at short notice,” he explained.

Meanwhile, discussing the WHO FCTC’s ideology, CAPHRA said that the organization’s actions not only threaten public health but also cause economic strain and foster next-generation addiction. CAPHRA’s executive coordinator Nancy Loucas, explained that the organization uses funds from entities like Big Pharma and the Bloomberg Foundation to promote misleading narratives and undermine tobacco harm reduction (THR) efforts. She added that the WHO FCTC is not only tone-deaf but is also sabotaging health policies.

Countries refusing to follow the WHO’s guidelines are being successful at becoming smoke-free

In line with this, international public health policy experts emphasize that countries deviating from the WHO’s advice and adopting a THR strategy have witnessed the most significant reductions in smoking rates. Prof. David Sweanor, Chair of the Advisory Board of the Center for Health Law, Policy, and Ethics at the University of Ottawa, recently reiterated that the primary cause of smoking-related deaths is the inhalation of smoke, not nicotine.

Sweanor referred to countries like Sweden, the UK, and Japan, where smoking rates experienced substantial declines, after smoke-free alternatives such as vapes, heated tobacco products, and snus, were endorsed as smoking cessation tools. Data supporting these arguments were shared during a virtual event hosted by Italy’s Formiche and Healthcare Policy on November 24, 2023.

New GSTHR Briefing Paper Urges WHO’s FCTC to Stop Ignoring Tobacco Harm Reduction

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