Monday, June 17, 2024

The WHO’s Latest Tobacco Report Perpetuates THR Misinformation


The WHO keeps ignoring independent data and growing international scientific evidence, indicating the effectiveness of the products in helping people quit smoking.

In a press release about the report, UK-based public health agency Knowledge·Action·Change (KAC) highlighted the following points:

  • “No fewer smokers around the world in 2021 than when the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control was enacted.
  • Global institution insists safer nicotine products pose threat – when evidence shows they offer significant opportunity to help adult smokers quit.
  • Harm reduction long integrated into WHO response on drugs and HIV/AIDS – but not smoking, which kills 8 million a year”

The KAC said that in this latest report, the WHO (and its single most significant funder for anti-smoking efforts-US billionaire Michael Bloomberg), are tragically ignoring independent data and growing international scientific evidence, indicating the effectiveness of the products in helping people quit deadly tobacco products.

“1.1 billion people continue to smoke worldwide and 8 million lives are lost annually to smoking-related disease, figures that have remained static for two decades. Unable to demonstrate that its tobacco control strategy has resulted in meaningful outcomes – the most important of which would be substantial declines in smoking – the WHO focuses instead on how many countries implement its ‘MPOWER’ measures (standing for ‘Monitoring tobacco use and preventive measures; Protecting people from tobacco smoke; Offering help to quit; Warning about the dangers of tobacco; Enforcing bans on advertising, promotion and sponsorship; and Raising taxes on tobacco’),” says the press release.

“On closer inspection, even progress on the MPOWER measures is underwhelming. The WHO reports that 104 countries have introduced ‘one or more MPOWER measures at the highest level of achievement’ since 2007, but also states that 41 of the 49 countries that have not implemented a single measure are low and middle income countries (LMIC). 80 per cent of the world’s smokers live in LMICs. These are the countries least able to cope with the disease burden of smoking or implement the most expensive and effective of the MPOWER measures – ‘offering help’ to quit.”

The WHO suggests a harm reduction approach for other  substance but not cigarettes

Meanwhile, smokers across the globe have been successfully reducing and/or quitting smoking with the aid safer nicotine products, which have been repeatedly proven to be substantially less harmful than smoking. “This approach is called tobacco harm reduction,” highlights the release, an approach suggested by the WHO itself to quit most other substances, but for some reason highly frowned upon when it comes to smoking.

The World Vapers’ Alliance (WVA), released a similar statement saying that among the outdated theories shared by the report, is the so-called gateway effect theory. WVA Director Michael Landl, explained how the WHO remains ridiculously shortsighted.

“Besides being riddled with biased anti-vaping scaremongering and false claims, the entire direction of travel set out in the latest WHO report is nonsensical. Rather than focus on the all important goal of beating smoking, the WHO is turning its guns on vaping, the most powerful smoking cessation tool on the planet. They clearly find it more important to fall into line with the narrow-minded ‘quit or die’ approach trumpeted by the WHO’s billionaire sponsors, like Mike Bloomberg. The reality is that if the world follows the WHO’s lead, fewer smokers will quit and more will die as a consequence.”

CAPHRA: the WHO report deserves the condemnation it is receiving

In its own release about the document, the CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) added that the WHO’s latest attack on safer nicotine alternatives, reportedly funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, deserves the global condemnation it is receiving.

“Without any substantive evidence, WHO’s Director-General claims ‘electronic nicotine delivery systems are harmful’. It’s an outrageous statement when vaping and other safer nicotine products continue to save the lives of millions of ex-smokers across the globe,” says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA.

A completely different (and actually successful) approach

Thankfully in contrast to the WHO’s outdated stance, the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) has recently officially recognized and recommended vaping products as smoking cessation tools. An earlier press release by the WVA had welcomed this development. “The draft new guidelines on how to effectively help smokers to quit, published today, state that:

  • ‘nicotine-containing e-cigarettes can help people to stop smoking and are similarly effective to other cessation options’ and
  • ‘people should be able to use e-cigarettes as one of several options to support smoking cessation, if they so choose.’”

The UK has been a leader in endorsing the use of safer alternatives to reduce tobacco harm, and local smoking rates reflect this perfectly. Public Health England (PHE), also an agency of the UK Ministry of Health, has similarly been recommending switching from smoking to using e-cigarettes for a number of years. “Due to this proactive approach, the UK sees better results in reducing smoking compared to countries where vaping is restricted. The UK’s successful public health and vaping policies should be followed by other countries around the world,” said the WVA.

CAPHRA: WHO Recommendations Will Only Create More Smokers 

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