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Kiwi vaping advocate takes on WHO’s tobacco stance

A well-known New Zealand vaping advocate has returned from the Philippines resolute that the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) steadfast position of tobacco control, not harm reduction, is costing considerable lives globally.

Nancy Loucas, Executive Director for CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia-Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates), says tobacco use causes one million deaths a year in the Asia-Pacific region alone, and the rights of consumers using smoke-free alternatives need to be respected.

“Because of WHO's unmoved position, smokers in many countries remain highly vulnerable and are likely to stick with smoking until they die. Let’s not forget that about 80 percent of the world’s 1.1 billion smokers live in low and middle-income countries like the Philippines,” she says.

Meeting in Makati City, CAPHRA and its member organisations agreed to ramp up its fight against WHO to address, from a human rights perspective, its ongoing stance on e-cigarettes and tobacco harm reduction, as well as its practice not to include consumer advocates groups at critical international meetings.

She says the meeting of the Ninth Session of Parties (CoP9) of WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) at The Hague in November is once again set to exclude the likes of CAPHRA.

Ahead of WHO’s biannual meeting for tobacco controllers later this year, CAPHRA has committed to launching an Asia-wide education and information campaign, #SmokeFree4Life, about the benefits of electronic cigarettes, heat-not-burn tobacco, snus and other smoke-free nicotine products.

The Asia-Pacific advocates will also urge health authorities attending to raise the rights of smokers who want to switch to less harmful smoke-free alternatives.

“WHO’s FCTC is mandated to engage with the public, but it chooses not to despite the public being the major stakeholder. FCTC also has a mandate to pursue ‘harm reduction’ as a core tobacco control policy, but it has failed to acknowledge or implement this policy for nearly two decades. Outrageously, WHO has effectively deprived smokers of an effective way out of smoking,” she says.

Ms Loucas says WHO ignored a 2018 letter sent to them by 72 tobacco harm scientific experts who stated: ‘That it is time for tobacco control to embrace tobacco harm reduction’.

What’s more, Public Health England's annual reviews of all available evidence have consistently concluded that e-cigarettes are around 95-percent less harmful than smoking

“We know from all the science that it is the smoke that kills the users of combustible tobacco, not the nicotine. However, some in global positions of influence would have us believe that the use of alternative forms of nicotine is just as deadly and harmful as lighting up a cigarette!

“We’re fighting for the billion-plus cigarette smokers who are now presented with better, safer and innovative nicotine product alternatives. Amazingly, our biggest obstacle remains the World Health Organisation. Regardless, we will continue to stand up for our right to be heard and included in their critical discussions,” she says.

Nancy Loucas is also Co-Director of Aotearoa Vapers Community Advocacy (AVCA), which is a member CAPHRA.

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