Public Health experts at the World Health Organization’s biennial conference FCTC COP8, are left disappointed as the WHO still fails to take into account scientific data in favour of e-cigarettes for harm reduction, and commends countries who have implemented unreasonable vaping bans.
The authors of a new report titled “No Fire, No Smoke” point out that safer alternatives alternatives such as e-cigarettes, heat-not-burn devices and Swedish snushave been hugely successful at reducing smoking rates. However, the WHO insists on rejecting all the data in favour and maintaining a forbidding stance.
The experts point out that this is ironic, as the WHO endorses harm reduction in principle, and yet is ignoring an international treaty which approves these lower harm alternatives to smoking.
“The WHO ignores its own treaty which obliges signatories to adopt the harm reduction approach of encouraging safer nicotine products. This is a tragic missed opportunity to stop one billion lives being claimed by smoking this century,” said Professor Gerry Stimson of Knowledge Action Change, London, who commissioned the report.
Undeniable data that link e-cig use to declining smoking rates
The report lists the 39 countries where e-cigarettes or nicotine e-liquids are banned, including Australia and Saudi Arabia. The authors then move on to refer to the contrastingly positive data from countries that have endorsed safer alternatives, such as Norway, where following the introduction of snus, the smoking rate amongst young women dropped from 30% to just 1%.
Similarly in Sweden smoking rates have dropped to the lowest in Europe, and thanks to endorsing e-cigarettes, the UK is now boasting the lowest smoking rates ever recorded, and the second lowest in Europe.
“In examining the data it has been striking how closely tied the availability of these substitutes is to plunging smoking rates. Whatever the motivation for countries banning them they need to realise that such policies make them the tobacco industry’s best friends,” said Harry Shapiro, the lead author of the report.
Earlier this week, the New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) urged UK delegates attending the conference, to take this opportunity to raise awareness about the significant drop in smoking rates that the country is witnessing, since it has endorsed e-cigarettes and other alternatives for smoking cessation. “COP8 is a perfect opportunity for the UK to showcase this success and share our positive experience with the world,” said NNA Chair Sarah Jakes.
“E-cigarettes are a proven safer alternative to smoking and the UK boasts over 1.7 million former smokers who have converted from combustible tobacco to exclusively vaping instead. In the UK, the government has wisely recognised the significant benefits that tobacco harm reduction strategies can achieve and, as a result of positive messaging towards vaping with campaigns such as Stoptober, has seen smoking prevalence dramatically plummet in recent years,” she added.
Former smokers scared to use the devices that are helping them quit
On the other hand, Nancy Sutthoff from the International Network of Nicotine Consumers Organisations said that sadly many vapers live in fear for using the devices that are helping them quit smoking. “Many of the vapers I represent live in fear of getting arrested for trying to save their lives. Their countries allow deadly cigarettes but ban much safer e-cigarettes because the WHO has encouraged bans,” she said.