- E-cigarette campaigners want the World Health Organization to allow vaping given that it is a possible alternative to traditional cigarettes.
- 70 campaigners have signed the letter imploring on the WHO to be sympathetic to the use of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS)
- The campaigners say that e-cigarettes will greatly reduce the number of smoking-caused diseases
- The FCTC will be meeting this week and are likely to wade into the ENDS debate
The World Health Organization (WHO) has been urged to have a sympathetic approach to the use of e-cigarettes and other smoking alternatives. In a letter to WHO’s director general, Tedros Adhanon Ghebreyesus, a group of seventy anti-tobacco campaigners and public health experts say that e-cigarettes and other smoking alternatives have the potential to end smoking-caused diseases more rapidly.
1/3 Letter to @DrTedros @FCTCofficial from 72 specialists warning @WHO it is becoming the enemy of innovation. It should change its prohibitionist outlook to embrace tobacco harm reduction >
1. Letter: https://t.co/79O4eQbsbc
2. Blog: https://t.co/0e0qWLkodr
3. Key points 👇 pic.twitter.com/U9ipz6KABQ
— Clive Bates (@Clive_Bates) October 1, 2018
The letter by the interested groups comes ahead of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). The FCTC conference is being held in Geneva this week. Given the increased usage of vaping devices, it is expected that the summit will deliberate on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) where e-cigarettes are the majority. In 2014, WHO submitted a report on ENDS during an FCTC conference that was held in Moscow. In the report, WHO had carried out an examination of evidence on the impacts that ENDS have on health. Further, it had identified options for prevention and control of the investigated impacts.
The current state of affairs portrays what Clive Bates has termed as a “huge rift in the public health community”. Clive, who is also a signatory to the appeal letter sent to WHO, is the former head of a UK pressure group known as Action on Smoking and Health.
This is a crucial week for a battle causing a ‘huge rift in the public health community’https://t.co/Pe7lfYxoN7
— FT Health (@fthealth) October 1, 2018
The said rift has two sides:
- One side constitutes the proponents of “harm reduction” which is what the seventy signatories are advocating for. They argue that obtaining nicotine through other ways such as vaping is much safer compared to when using burnt tobacco. As a result, they feel that ENDS should be encouraged as a safer alternative to smoking traditional cigarettes.
- On the other side of the divide is the FCTC administered by the WHO. The convention holds a rather pragmatic approach. Their view is that in the absence of sufficient investigations into the health impacts of Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems, there should only be outright bans or strict regulation of the products. This fact could once again come to dim the chances of the pro-ENDS campaigners prevailing upon the FCTC given that ENDS have only existed for a few years. As such, existing data on their use may not be enough to draw conclusive evidence to demonstrate their impacts on health. The FCTC is also concerned that allowing ENDS will lead to nicotine addiction among the youth.
However, some of the proponents of harm reduction who include professors of universities and medical schools are urging the World Health Organization to be more considerate. They opine that uncertainty on the long-term impacts of ENDS should not warrant measures that should hinder their introduction or continued use.
In this week’s meeting, the convention will be considering a report prepared by its secretariat. In the report, it shows that ENDS global revenues increased from $2.76 billion in 2014 to $8.61 billion in 2016. Also in the report is that the projected revenue from ENDS is likely to be more than $26 billion in 2023.
Clive Bates notes that suspicion of e-cigarettes both in and out of the WHO has been aggravated by the fact that they were developed almost entirely by private companies. He also noted that tobacco industries venturing into the industry would not make things better.
The World Health Organization cannot dictate to governments on the actions they should take as regards e-cigarettes. Nevertheless, decisions and recommendations arrived at by the FCTC are likely to shape the ENDS debate in the days to come.