The World Health Organisation continues to present misleading information about e-cigarettes that spreads doubt and confusion among the public, media and policymakers. This post reviews its latest Q & A and finds multiple errors of analysis, misleading statements, and obvious biases.
This has been updated several times (see history below). In each of its incarnations, this web page has presented a profoundly misleading account of the risks and benefits of e-cigarettes. It ignores the fact that eight million people are dying annually from smoking (around the same order as COVID-19) and that hundreds of millions of smokers could benefit from switching to low-risk alternatives to smoking. The Q & A is primarily a vehicle for promoting prohibition and generating hostility to the pragmatic public health strategy of tobacco harm reduction. It is anti-scientific, its information is misleading, and its effect or purpose is to sow confusion and doubt rather than to candidly explain e-cigarettes.
I have set out the main sections of the latest Q & A below with a short general commentary on each section followed by the main claims in each section drawn out in block quotes followed by comments.
“O Brasil vai repensar sua proibição de vaping?” Brazil is consulting on lifting its ban on vaping products. Will it recognise the perverse consequences of prohibition and shift to risk-proportionate regulation? We argue it should rethink its approach to nicotine.
Health Canada’s review of its tobacco and vaping legislation focuses only on reducing youth vaping. It shows no awareness of the links between smoking and vaping, between adults and adolescents, and the case for harm reduction at all ages
This blog takes a critical look at Canada’s ongoing review of its tobacco and vaping legislation. Health Canada produced a discussion document to inform the review, posed twenty-two questions and invited comments. Responses from me and David Sweanor are set out below.
Most Americans now incorrectly believe that e-cigarettes are just as harmful or more harmful than cigarettes. US health organisations have unethically cultivated this misunderstanding and compare unfavourably with UK equivalents. Their duplicitous behaviour resembles that of Big Tobacco 50 years ago.
I have drawn the chart above from the US National Cancer Institute HINTS survey, picking up results from 2014, 2017 and the most recent data from 2020. The current situation is shocking and the trend is a disgrace. But how has this happened?
In this blog, I compare the vaping risk communications of four major American health organisations with four similar UK organisations. The comparison is damning.
FDA has authorised 22nd Century to claim a reduced nicotine cigarette is a reduced risk product. This will spread confusion and divert smokers from better choices.
In one of its most ill-judged moves to date, the US Food and Drug Administration has today granted 22nd Century Group the right to market its VLN King and VLN Menthol King combusted, filtered cigarettes as modified risk tobacco products.
It has done this because these products are reduced in nicotine and, FDA concludes, anyone who is willing to smoke them will experience lower exposures to nicotine. But we have known for a long time that “people smoke for the nicotine but die from the tar” (Mike Russell). This is a product that reduces the nicotine but keeps the tar. What could possibly go wrong?
Using regulation to remove nearly all the nicotine from cigarettes is similar in effect to a prohibition – with all that entails. That will trigger a wide range of responses by consumers and suppliers. These have barely been studied or understood.
Updated: December 2021: I am revisiting this post with a new graphic (above). July 2022: reflecting the return of this rule to FDA’s regulatory agenda, updates on (4) public perception; (8) youth. August 2022: added a pro-VLN commentary.
What would be the biggest possible tobacco control measure? That would be a proposed rule lowering nicotine levels in cigarettes with a view to making “Very Low Nicotine Cigarettes” (VLNC) sub-addictive – thereby persuading adults to quit and adolescents to never start. The trouble is that consumers, markets, producers, and criminal networks have a way of thwarting such bold ambitions.
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.
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.