Pressure on WHO to legalise vaping across Asia

This week in New Delhi, behind closed doors, the Conference of the Parties took place. This was the seventh such gathering of key members of the World Health Organisation (WHO), along with representatives from the 180 member countries, in order to discuss the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the illegal trade of tobacco across the developing world.

While many see the move to vaping from cigarettes as a positive thing, in many Asian countries the use of e-cigarettes is banned, preventing smokers from having access to the devices. There are also some within the WHO itself who are unconvinced of their advantages – one being an unnamed author at the Secretariat in Geneva, whose recent publication has advised the WHO to push for a clamp-down on vaping products.

A large percentage of pro-vaping campaigners have urged the WHO to ignore the publication’s advice unless the author is named, with full transparency regarding his/her connection to lobbyists, as well as how such a viewpoint can run parallel with the pro-health ideals of the World Health Organisation.

In an effort to get their voices heard during the Conference of the Parties, a second conference nearby was headed by the president of organisation The Vapers Philippines, Tom Pinlac, who called for renewed support for e-cigarettes to help those trying to quit smoking:

“On behalf of millions of us who now vape instead of smoke, and in support of the 1 billion smokers who deserve access to safer alternatives to cigarettes, we adopt today The Delhi Declaration, calling on the WHO and our countries’ representatives at Conference of the Parties 7 (COP7) to allow us to have equal access to safer alternatives to cigarettes.”

For many vapers, it seems almost insane that despite acknowledging the health benefits of vaping over traditional cigarettes, the WHO report author fails to recommend their use as a smoking cessation device. Even more worrying is that the author’s reasoning is based on issues that have already been found to have no basis in reality, thanks to a study by the Royal College of Physicians, as well as citing the lack of studies regarding ‘long-term effects’ of vaping.

“If we had waited for clinical studies and scientific certainty, we wouldn’t have seat belts, motorcycle helmets, cleaner fuel, or healthier foods,” said Pinlac, vigorously opposing the report.

There is no doubt e-cigarettes are much safer than cigarettes,” he added. “Banning them shows disdain for our health and we are the ones who pay the price. Concerns about youth are very important, but that should be addressed through appropriate, balanced regulation, not bans.”

For many in developing countries, smokers are only being given two options – stop smoking or see your health continuously decline as you age. For many health campaigners, it amounts to an abuse of basic human rights across Asia to prevent access to a smoking cessation device that has caused cigarette sales to plummet in developed countries such as the US, UK, and other members of the EU.

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