A group of international nicotine consumer organizations warned against the growing influence of foreign grants on health regulators, saying it would affect the campaign in reducing the harm caused by cigarettes in low- and middle-income countries like the Philippines.
The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (Innco) cited the influence of non-government organizations backed by Bloomberg Initiative on regulators such as the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
“There is also an element of corruption aided by the Bloomberg NGOs (nongovernment organizations), who are co-opting tobacco policy through the sheer force of money. The legislators in Philippines recently questioned the conflict of interest in their FDA receiving funds from these NGOs while pushing anti-vaping policy,” Samrat Chowdhery, Innco president and tobacco harm reduction advocate, said during a virtual forum that presented the 2020 Global State of Tobacco Harm Reduction report.
Electronic cigarette and heated tobacco products (HTP) advocacy groups alleged that the FDA received grants from foreign groups while drafting regulations on e-cigarettes and HTPs.
An FDA official admitted that the agency received grants from foreign anti-tobacco advocates.
Chowdhery said the opposition to low-risk products mounted by the anti-vape (vaporizing) organizations was “highly discriminatory.”
“[It] will increase health gaps between western and developing nations, and is a prime instance of the philantro-capitalism kind of thinking that is highlighted in the GSTHR report,” he added.
He said aside from the bans pushed in lower-to-middle income countries, there are a growing number of restrictions on vaping and other risk-reduced alternatives, which include higher tax, restrictions on online sale, and flavor bans.
Chowdhery added that the bans and restrictions on tobacco harm reduction are the biggest challenges to achieving a society where people will not die from the harmful use of tobacco.
The GSTHR report said36 nations banned low-risk alternatives. This is alarming because almost 80 percent of over a billion smokers live in developing nations where most of the 8 million annual global deaths from smoking are recorded.
He stressed the need to allow and promote tobacco harm reduction alternatives to prevent disease and early death.
He believes that the tide is turning in their favor, with 22 nations either reversing bans or introducing regulations on the use of THR alternatives.
“I hope this trend continues in years to come,” he added.