Pressure Building For UN To Support Right To Health
52 consumer groups from around the world have sent an open letter to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr. Volker Türk, calling on the UN to protect the universal Right to Health and endorse harm reduction to reduce smoking.
“The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) fully supports this call and urges the World Health Organization (WHO) to recognise harm reduction in relation to smoking as a legitimate and evidence-based strategy” said Nancy Loucas, a public health policy expert and passionate advocate for tobacco harm reduction and executive coordinator of CAPHRA.
The Right to Health is enshrined in many UN treaties and documents, as well as the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) itself, and explicitly recognises the concept of harm reduction.
“Central to the Right to Health is allowing adults who smoke to access safer alternatives to smoking, as no person can attain the highest possible level of health if they lack the ability to control their own health and body, free from interference”, said Ms Loucas.
“Yet we have the WHO by contrast, banning or restricting safer alternatives to smoking which is wholly inconsistent with the Right to Health and goes against the UN’s own harm reduction principles”.
“This is on top of the Western Pacific Declaration, which was signed last week, with more than 80 signatures calling for transparency of the FCTC meetings”, said Ms Loucas.
In Asia Pacific, New Zealand as a country that has implemented policies that support harm reduction in relation to smoking, such as allowing the sale of nicotine e-cigarettes and nicotine e-liquids. CAPHRA urges other countries to follow New Zealand's lead in recognising the importance of harm reduction in reducing smoking rates and improving public health.
Ms Loucas says CAPHRA wants Mr. Türk to recognise the role that safer alternatives to smoking can play in beating smoking and support our call for implementation of harm reduction policies. The UN already recognised the importance of a harm reduction approach in relation to illicit drugs.
We urge the same in relation to smoking, including to:
- Encourage the WHO to recognise harm reduction in relation to smoking as a legitimate and evidence-based strategy, particularly within the context of the WHO FCTC and its implementation guidelines.
- Encourage the WHO to review its position on safer alternative nicotine products based on the latest scientific and empirical evidence.
- Encourage and support the UN and the WHO member states to adopt harm reduction policies and programs in relation to smoking in a way that is consistent with the Right to Health and human rights standards.
- Encourage the WHO FCTC to welcome the participation of consumer groups in its COP10 and to invite them to share their experience, switching from smoking to safer alternative nicotine products.
- Have a representation of the UN Human Rights Office at the WHO FCTC’s COP10.
“CAPHRA believes that harm reduction is a crucial strategy in reducing smoking rates and improving public health. We call on the UN to recognise the importance of harm reduction in relation to smoking and to take action to protect the Right to Health of all individuals, including smokers” Ms Loucas said.