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WHO Asked To Stop Peddling Lies About Vaping And COVID-19 Risks

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) asked the World Health Organization (WHO) to stop peddling lies about the risks of contracting Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) through vaping or the use of electronic cigarettes.

In a 103-page white paper, CAPHRA said the vaping/COVID link is the latest dangerous lie being spread by the WHO as part of its anti-smoking agenda. The group noted that the WHO, in its quest to rid the world of smoking, has once again sought to deliberately prevent millions of adult cigarette smokers from getting access to safer vaping products.

“For years, the WHO has created a steady stream of anti-vaping claims, which has had dire consequences for adult smokers seeking to quit. It has also led to many governments passing legislation that bans vaping and all related products. By going this route, the WHO has chosen to support deadly cigarette consumption over a healthier alternative and in the process has forced vaping into the waiting hands of the black market—and they do this with the full knowledge of the consequences of their actions. The lack of legislation means that these unregulated products end up in the hands of minors, courtesy of the WHO,” CAPHRA Executive Coordinator and New Zealand vaping advocate, Nancy Loucas said.

Photo of CAPHRA Executive Coordinator and New Zealand vaping advocate, Nancy Loucas

CAPHRA said that contrary to WHO’s claims, a review of global medical research into the relationship between vaping and contracting COVID-19 has shown no such connection. It noted that studies around the world have been reporting three key observations that contradict WHO’s allegations, including a noticeably low percentage of smokers among COVID-19 patients; a theory that nicotine may in fact be a potential deterrent to COVID-19; and that the link between COVID-19 and vaping is currently considered inconclusive at best, with researchers calling for more studies to clarify the situation.

The WHO’s own findings support the position that there is no established link between nicotine and COVID. In Smoking and COVID-19 published in June 2020 by the WHO’s Western Pacific Division, a review of 34 studies concluded that no evidence of a link existed between smoking and the likelihood of catching COVID-19, and that further direct research was needed.

“There are currently no peer-reviewed studies that have evaluated the risk of SARS-CoV-2 infection among smokers. This research question requires well-designed population-based studies that control for age and relevant underlying risk factors,” the WHO report said while adding “There is no evidence about the relationship between e-cigarette use and COVID-19.”

Results of the largest laboratory study of its kind titled “Characteristics and risk factors for COVID-19 diagnosis and adverse outcomes in Mexico: an analysis of 89,756 laboratory–confirmed COVID-19 cases” showed that smokers were less likely to test positive for COVID-19 than the general population.

CAPHRA confirmed that while the findings that smokers are under-represented among COVID-19 patients presented a hypothesis that nicotine may exert protective effects, it is still impossible to state the role of nicotine one way or the other, as there is disagreement over-interpreting the science.

However, CAPHRA said WHO continued to link vaping and COVID in its various briefs and materials, stating that as “the COVID-19 virus affects the respiratory tract, the hand-to-mouth action of e-cigarette use may increase the risk of infection”, without offering any scientific basis.

CAPHRA said the WHO’s continued demonization of vaping bears significant and severe consequences, as a 2012 study (Global economic cost of smoking-attributable diseases by Mark Goodchild, Nigar Nargis, Edouard Tursan d’Espaignet) showed that the total economic cost of smoking was roughly US$422 billion, equivalent to 5.7 percent of global health expenditures, or 1.8 percent of global GDP.

CAPHRA said that unfortunately, the WHO, in its bid to reduce cigarette smoking around the world, refused to identify vaping as a viable harm-reduction option, causing a cascading effect of many governments banning it outright, without consideration to creating protective, sensible, and fiscally responsible legislation. “The effects are devastating, allowing black marketers to sell to minors while robbing the government of revenues,” it said.

“If the World Health Organisation and governments globally can be so reliant on the science around COVID-19, why won’t they take the same approach to the smoking pandemic that kills someone every 10 seconds? Half of all smokers who cannot stop, will die from smoking related illnesses. That is over 8 million deaths per year,” CAPHRA said.

This begs the question “If governments trust the science around the COVID pandemic, why are they not trusting the science on tobacco harm reduction to mitigate the long-standing smoking pandemic?” CAPHRA said.

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

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) is an alliance between the Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates and their respective organisations in the region. Our mission and aim is to educate, advocate and represent the right of adult alternative nicotine consumers to access and use of products that reduce harm from tobacco use.

Download the 103-page paper here.

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