Just as vapers in several countries began to feel like events may finally be turning in favor of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool, the harsh realities of the global public health movement shattered any optimism.
The World Health Organization is just wrapping its Conference of the Parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, known as COP7, in India and according to professor John Britton, Chair of the Tobacco Advisory Group at the Royal College of Physicians in Britain (RCP), the future for vaping looks bleak.
The RCP, Public Health England and the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies have all endorsed e-cigarettes as a vital tool in the battle to end the tobacco epidemic.
Tune in to this special edition of RegWatch and learn why officials from England’s top public health organizations fear that pending WHO regulatory action on e-cigarettes could kill millions of people.
A new WHO report fails to properly evaluate the evidence on e-cigarettes and could even undermine international efforts to reduce smoking, says a group of UK based academics.
UK academics are calling for better understanding of the potential benefits of e-cigarettes to reducing the smoking pandemic ahead of an international gathering of countries that have signed the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention for Tobacco Control.
The 7th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP) of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), a global public health treaty, will be held in Delhi, India from 7th-12th November 2016. At this meeting, Parties to the treaty (countries and other jurisdictions) will discuss whether similar policy measures recommended to reduce tobacco use should be applied to e-cigarettes.
In advance of the COP the World Health Organisation published a report about Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDS) and Electronic Non-Nicotine Delivery Systems (ENDDS), also known as e-cigarettes. This aimed to summarise the evidence about these devices.
Academics from the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, a UKCRC Public Health Research Centre of Excellence, have today published a robust critique of the WHO report setting out a series of concerns about the content of the document which, in their view, does not fairly represent existing evidence on e-cigarettes. Their critique examines each element of the WHO report and identifies flaws in the way the evidence is presented and problems with how the report could be interpreted, potentially encouraging countries to adopt excessive restrictions on e-cigarettes which could undermine efforts to reduce smoking.
The UKCTAS critique points to evidence set out in the recent Royal College of Physician’s’ report ‘Nicotine without Smoke’ and subsequent research which recognise that e-cigarettes are far less harmful than smoking and that smokers who find it difficult to stop should be encouraged to use them.
The WHO report fails to accurately present what is already known about e-cigarettes. In particular, it: positions e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity to reduce smoking; fails to accurately quantify any risks of e-cigarettes compared with smoking; misrepresents existing evidence about any harms to bystanders; discounts the fact that e-cigarettes are helping smokers to quit; does not recognise the place of some promotion of e-cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to these less harmful products; fails to understand that the flavours in e-cigarettes are useful for people trying to stop smoking; mischaracterises the current e-cigarette market and appears to support very restrictive policies on e-cigarettes without including any good policy analysis. In addition, the WHO report does not acknowledge that significant restrictions on e-cigarettes could lead to unintended consequences, including increases in smoking.
Finally, the researchers point out that the WHO briefing is based on four unpublished papers which are still undergoing peer review, which does not allow for open, transparent scrutiny of the evidence. This does not, therefore, provide a good basis for policy making and risks undermining rather than promoting the aims of the FCTC, which is a treaty that was designed to help countries reduce smoking rates and save lives.
Even though it is clear how to get people to stop smoking, rates are still rising in many countries—even some in the rich world.
For many Egyptian Muslims it is not the forgoing of food and drink during daylight hours that makes the holy month of Ramadan a difficult time: it is the corresponding restriction on smoking. Take Sayed, the manager of a modest Lebanese restaurant in Cairo. He has not eaten for nearly 16 hours and is surrounded by food. But after the muezzin calls out at sunset, he reaches for a cigarette. So does his staff. Of his 28 employees, only three do not smoke.
In much of the rich world, smoking seems to be doomed. In America, Australia, Britain, Canada and Italy, one in five or fewer people smoke (see chart). The better-off have mostly given up, and the poor are following. There’s a lag between a fall in the smoking rate and a fall in deaths from smoking, but even so in America and many other rich countries, smoking-related deaths are in decline. Continue reading