The just-ended ninth Convention of Events (COP) of the World Well being Organisation (WHO) Framework Conference on Tobacco Management (FCTC) held within the Netherlands didn’t disappoint.
As was largely anticipated, the worldwide well being physique caught to its weapons by doubling down on its dedication to mobilise a multi-million-dollar fund “to strengthen global tobacco control measures”.
COP9 ran from November 8-13, whereas the assembly of events (MOP) was held in two days to November 17.
Maybe probably the most emphatic voice of WHO’s prohibitionist stance in the direction of tobacco got here from director-general Dr Tedros Gebreyesus, who fell in need of describing it as a virus.
“If tobacco was a virus, it would long ago have been called a pandemic and the world would marshal every resource to stop it. Instead, it is a multi-billion-dollar business profiting from death and disease,” he stated in his opening remarks at MOP2.
“We still have a long way to go, and tobacco companies will continue to use every trick in
the book to defend the gigantic profits they make from peddling their deadly wares.” COP9, which was attended by 161 of the 182 Events to the FCTC, additionally adopted the “Declaration on WHO FCTC and recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic”, which primarily declares conflict on the tobacco trade.
The declaration stresses the necessity to shield public well being coverage “from the commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry.
The increase in tobacco taxes was viewed as an integral part in the pandemic recovery
efforts. On its part, Zimbabwe last week increased excise duty on cigarettes from 20 percent and
US$5 per 1 000 cigarettes to 25 percent plus US$5 per 1 000. The envisaged funds will be used to fight non-communicable diseases (NCDs).
But scientists, researchers and tobacco industry experts had, however, expected the outcome, as WHO, which is largely funded and supported by American-based Bloomberg Philanthropies, continues to shut out alternative voices pushing for harm-reduction products.
Research has shown that tobacco harm reduction products significantly reduce death and
the disease normally associated with smoking. An expert independent evidence review published by Public Health England in August 2015 indicated that e-cigarettes in particular are 95 percent less harmful than smoking and have the potential to help smokers quit.
Vapes and tobacco-heated products are similarly effective.
It is estimated that eight million people die every year due to smoking-related diseases.
Speaking at a recent Vapour Products Association of South Africa (VPASA) Diginar, which preceded the COP9 meeting, Dr Kgosi Letlape — the former president of the World Medical Association — said WHO had seemingly become a “mouthpiece of the personal beliefs of a billionaire (Michael Bloomberg).”
“We have a duty to ensure that it does its job properly without fear or favour,” stated Dr Letlape, who can also be the present president of the Africa Hurt Discount Alliance.
“If the world is frantic about five million deaths caused by the coronavirus in the past two years, it must be doubly frantic about the 16 million deaths in two years related to smoking,” he stated.
It’s excessive time the FCTC actively considers various merchandise, he added, with a view to cease the unnecessary lack of lives.
Director-general of the UK Vaping Business Affiliation Mr John Dunne believes the FCTC is changing into “a threat to global public health”.
“Despite the treaty’s commitment to harm reduction, the WHO and FCTC have never embraced e-cigarettes or alternative products but have instead called for excessive regulation,” he instructed the VPASA diginar.
“The FCTC secretariat and COP meetings are not fit for purpose. In their relentless opposition of vaping and other reduced risk products, they have become a threat to global public health.”
He additionally accused the COP of being notoriously secretive, as it’s reluctant to contain the media, tobacco trade, civil society and client teams in its key discussions.
Mr Dunne stated the UK, which has efficiently built-in vaping into its public insurance policies on tobacco hurt discount, wanted so as to add its voice in selling an evidence-based strategy.
However, WHO appears hell-bent on banning tobacco.
“Over the last three decades, tobacco control has become more prohibitionist in its focus. I guess the focus of the FCTC has similarly become extremely prohibitionist, so much now that they are looking at eliminating the tobacco plant altogether from agricultural use,” noticed Professor Marewa Glover, director of the New Zealand-based Unbiased Centre of Analysis and Excellence.
The island nation just lately handed the Smoke-Free Environments and Regulated Merchandise Act, which got here into pressure on August 11 this yr.
Though it bans merchandise akin to snus and oral nicotine pouches, it permits the restricted use of vaping merchandise.
The brand new regulatory framework, in line with Prof Glover, encourages individuals to shift from smoking to vaping and discourages non-smokers to begin vaping.
Total, it’s aimed toward making certain that those that are already vaping will finally give up.
Nonetheless, prohibitionist lobbying continues to be underway to alter the legislation.
Mr Clive Bates, the director of London-based Counterfactual Consulting, says WHO’s s continued obsession with banning tobacco, notably in low-and middle-income international locations the place smoking is prevalent and pervasive, is each unworkable and unhelpful.
“So, I want to stress that this prohibitionist agenda that the Bloomberg-funded entities and their proxies at WHO want to foist on low- to middle-income countries is completely baseless, completely
counterproductive and will work against public health in all low- and middle-income countries,” he stated.
Activists say they are going to proceed to foyer for hurt discount options with a view to scale back comparatively excessive deaths and ailments related to smoking.