AAs part of a campaign to celebrate World No Tobacco Day on 31 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken its only-abstinence approach to nicotine.

In a press release entitled “Stop tobacco to be a winner,” the WHO said the tobacco industry “promoted e-cigarettes as aids to stop under the guise of contributing to global tobacco control” while “strategically use marketing tactics to hook children up “. the same portfolio of products, making it available in more than 15,000 attractive fragrances. ”

The agency also insisted that the scientific evidence on e-cigarettes as cessation aids was “unconvincing” and that “conversion of conventional tobacco products to e-cigarettes does not stop.”

“We need to be guided by science and evidence, not the tobacco industry’s marketing campaigns – the same industry that has been involved in decades of lies and fraud to sell products that have killed hundreds of millions of people,” said WHO Director – General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. “E-cigarettes generate toxic chemicals, which have been linked to harmful health effects such as cardiovascular disease and lung disorders.”

The WHO has taken this anti-vaping position – repeatedly – in the past and seems to continue to ignore an emerging body of evidence to the contrary. Despite the inclusion of “harm reduction strategies” in its definition of “tobacco control”, the agency remains adamant in denying the expert opinions of a growing number of academics and scientific bodies – such as the UKs Royal College of Physicians and the American National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine — that vaping is far less harmful than smoking.

“In a press release that mixes conspiracy theories, bad science and completely inadequate alternative measures, the WHO once again shows that it is not suitable for the purpose.”

More than 8 million people worldwide die annually from smoking-related causes. In this context, it should be inconceivable that the worlds leading public health organization would get his approach so wrong. Especially when countries that have seen some of the biggest declines in smoking rates have adopted harm reduction strategies.

Japan, for example, has seen a drop of more than 40 percent in cigarette sales in recent years, largely due to the population’s large-scale adoption of heat-non-combustible products that reduce exposure to harmful chemicals compared to cigarettes. Other notable examples include Sweden’s low lung cancer rates due to the prevalence of oral snus, and the UK’s encouragement of vaping as a substitute for smoking. The UK’s national health service has gone so far as to issue free vapes to smokers.

Meanwhile in the US – where rates of youth steaming have been steadily declining in 2020 – studies continue to cut against the mainstream narrative of an unbridled “teen vapor epidemic”. One suggests that the children who vape would probably smoke cigarettes if vapes never became available; another suggests that misinformation about the fabricated dangers of vaping actually led to a Increase in cigarette sales.

In stark contrast to the WHO’s claim of “indecisive” evidence on vaping as a way to quit smoking, Cochrane, a British charity advocating for medical evidence-based health care, found last month that “nicotine e-cigarettes are likely to help people quit smoking for at least six months,” and that “it works better than nicotine replacement therapy and nicotine-free e-cigarettes.”

“Vaping has already worked for many millions of smokers, and many credible experts agree that a systematic approach to reducing tobacco harm could save the lives of hundreds of millions of smokers,” said Clive Bates, a tobacco control expert and former director of Action on Smoking and Health. (UK), tell Filter. “Instead, the health bureaucrats at the WHO are just rejecting this great opportunity.”

“The WHO kindly, and completely wrongly, claims that switching from cigarette smoking, by far the biggest preventable cause of premature death and disability, to far less harmful e-cigarettes – which they cleverly but unscientifically imply can be fatal – will not stop. Cliff Douglas, director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network and former vice president of tobacco control at the American Cancer Society, said Filter. “What they really mean is that it does not stop nicotine, which they know does not cause the deadly diseases caused by smoking, and which the FDA and other national health authorities long ago determined to be both ‘safe and effective’. be to quit smoking. products. “

In a staggering evolution, as the scientific literature on products with reduced risks becomes stronger, it seems that the WHO is taking an increasingly strict stance against them.

Instead of accepting the options that seem to work in different countries around the world, the agency plans to expand existing services — such as involving health workers for short advice, promoting national toll-free termination lines, and encouraging people to with Florence, the WHO’s first digital health worker – it may work for some, but it does‘t work for everyone.

“In a press release that mixes conspiracy theories, bad science and completely inadequate alternative measures,” Bates said, “the WHO once again shows that it is not fit for purpose and that it is being caught by special interests.”

Many harm reductionists blame the influence of Michael Bloomberg and other philanthropists who pump money into the WHO and support ban-centered tobacco control measures.

“The WHO’s demonization of nicotine in this way appears to be an attempt to characterize all tobacco products as more or less equally harmful, which can no longer be wrong,” Douglas said. “My advice to the WHO is just to tell the truth.”


Photo by Eric Bridiers for US Mission Photo via Creative Commons 2.0 / Flickr