The WHO tobacco control treaty meetings are closed bubbles of cultivated groupthink – a comparison with the UN climate change treaty

Stakeholders with legitimate (and sometimes life-or-death) interests are deliberately excluded from FCTC meetings.

At the start of COP-9, the head of the FCTC convention secretariat proudly drew a comparison with the other COP, the one going on in Glasgow dealing with the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC).  Perhaps she hoping some of the interest in UNFCCC COP-26 would rub off on the altogether more tawdry FCTC COP-9.  But the tobacco COP takes an aggressive exclusionary and insular approach to stakeholders that would never be tolerated in the climate COP.  This post compares the two COPs.

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Prohibitionists at work: how the WHO damages public health through hostility to tobacco harm reduction

Gangsters celebrate their good fortune with drinks at a speakeasy during US alcohol Prohibition

This post examines how WHO and related institutions aggressively promote the prohibition of much safer alternatives to cigarettes, such as vaping and heated tobacco products. The effect, if not the intent, is to protect the cigarette trade from competition, to promote black markets, to stimulate harmful workarounds, to nurture criminal networks, to harm young people, and to prolong the epidemic of avoidable smoking-related disease.  It’s a reckless policy, built on misplaced righteousness, defended by bureaucratic inertia, sustained by group-think, and cultivated by elitist billionaire foundation money. It’s a curse and a blight on public health, and government representatives should apply real-world policy disciplines and reject it.

The post is broken into six sections:
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One hundred specialists call for WHO to change its hostile stance on tobacco harm reduction – new letter to FCTC delegates published

Just want the letter? PDF version: English, Français, Español, Deutsch (new) – and text below.

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Expert statements on WHO and tobacco harm reduction

100 experts sign a public letter on the failure of the WHO approach to tobacco smoking and public health. In this post, they express their views in their own words 

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Letter: WHO must urgently reassess its tobacco & nicotine policy and stop causing harm

WHO should be building public trust, not giving its critics further justification

It’s World No Tobacco Day and we have sent our detailed letter and multiple critical expert comments to the WHO Director-General.   The covering note and links to relevant documents are reproduced below.  I hope it causes them to pause and reflect.  My guess is that Tedros has been very badly advised here.

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WHO has gone rogue on tobacco policy – millions at risk from tired dogma and a refusal to grasp innovation

WHO has a self-defeating approach to the global burden of tobacco-related death and disease

A message for World No Tobacco Day, 31 May 2021

If you just want to go straight to our unforgiving and detailed letter to WHO – it is here.

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International experts in tobacco policy say WHO is blocking innovation and wasting opportunities to save millions of lives

WHO NCD poster
WHO Tobacco Free Initiative and Framework Convention on Tobacco Control – you have one job!

As the World Health Organisation’s World No Tobacco Day takes aim at low-risk alternatives to smoking, several international experts have made critical comments in response. Continue reading “International experts in tobacco policy say WHO is blocking innovation and wasting opportunities to save millions of lives”

World Health Organisation fails at science and fails at propaganda – the sad case of WHO’s anti-vaping Q&A

WHO’s anti-vaping propaganda is so bad it discredits the whole organisation

On 20 January 2020, the World Health Organisation published a question and answer page on “ENDS” (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) or e-cigarettes and vaping products for nicotine as they are more commonly known: E-cigarettes: how risky are they? (current live version)

Update (31 January 2019) – WHO’s amended version: almost certainly in response to severe criticisms, WHO published an update to its Q & A some time on 29 January.  The 20 January original version, (archived) which WHO heavily publicised (e.g. see Twitter thread) is the subject of this blog, not least because it allows debunking of some especially absurd anti-vaping statements.  WHO has not notified readers of the changes or issued any acknowledgement of correction or error. So for comparison purposes, I have compared the original and updated versions side-by-side in the final section of this blog: go to Update: what WHO has changed.  Much of my original criticism applies to the amended version, which mainly removes some of the most blatantly false and misleading statements. Update ends.

There are nine questions and every single answer provides false, misleading or simplistic information, and this remains true of the 29 January update.  It is a disgraceful travesty of science communication and policymaking advice and again puts in question the competence of the WHO – if there is still any doubt about this. But it is so bad that it even fails as anti-vaping activist propaganda – and that is a low bar.

I will briefly set out the nine questions in the original Q&A and the World Health Organisation’s answers in quote boxes, each followed by my assessment of the answer. Continue reading “World Health Organisation fails at science and fails at propaganda – the sad case of WHO’s anti-vaping Q&A”

Twitter Q&A: debunking tobacco harm reduction misconceptions

I did a Twitter chat with the Campaign for Safer Alternatives on the typical objections raised to tobacco harm reduction. For those interested in the responses but who missed the live chat or got as confused as I did in trying to follow threaded answers, here is the chat as it unfolded over 15 questions with everything in the right order.

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Leaked papers: WHO to intensify its pointless and destructive war against innovation – expect many dead

The enemies of innovation are on manoeuvres

This week there will be a meeting of tobacco regulators under auspices of the FDA-funded WHO Global Tobacco Regulators’ Forum (GTRF) in the Netherlands and part of the preparation for FCTC COP-9, which will be held in 2020, also the Netherlands.  Two leaked papers from WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) suggest that WHO is building up to an attempt to treat reduced risk products no differently to cigarettes or with even greater hostility.

  1. EMRO Paper on Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems
  2. EMRO Paper on Heated Tobacco Products

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