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

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.

Continue reading “One hundred specialists call for WHO to change its hostile stance on tobacco harm reduction – new letter to FCTC delegates published”

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 

Continue reading “Expert statements on WHO and tobacco harm reduction”

Psychoactive Podcast: The E-cigarette revolution – vaping, nicotine and harm reduction

I had an excellent conversation with Ethan Nadelmann, the founder of the New York-based Drug Policy Alliance for his outstanding Psychoactive podcast series about all aspects of drugs and drugs policy, which I highly recommend.

In this episode, “The E-cigarette revolution”, we covered vaping, nicotine, harm reduction – science, policy, politics and controversy – with Ethan as host putting the challenging questions.   Listen via your usual podcast provider (search on Psychoactive)… or via these links.

Continue reading “Psychoactive Podcast: The E-cigarette revolution – vaping, nicotine and harm reduction”

CHEST journal point and counterpoint – E-cigarette use for harm reduction in tobacco use disorder: Yes/No?

A debate about the merits of e-cigarettes for tobacco harm reduction

The September 2021 edition of CHEST, the respiratory journal, features a point/counterpoint debate on the value of e-cigarettes for tobacco harm reduction.  I am making the case in favour (the Point) and Dr Hasmeena Kathuria (Boston University) and Dr Frank T. Leone (University of Pennsylvania) are making the case against (the Counterpoint).  We each provide a shorter rebuttal to the arguments made by the other.  We also recorded a 30-minute podcast to air these arguments face-to-face.  Recognising the broader interest in the subject, CHEST has kindly made this content open access so far.

Whatever you think of the respective arguments, it was refreshing to find a forum willing to air them in a respectful and measured way, I am grateful to Drs Kathuria and Leone for engaging and making their case and to CHEST for providing the platform.  I wish we could have much more debate like this.

For ease of access, I have added the relevant links below.

Continue reading “CHEST journal point and counterpoint – E-cigarette use for harm reduction in tobacco use disorder: Yes/No?”

Will FDA harm health, destroy businesses, and protect the cigarette industry through regulatory overkill? A preview.

This blog gives my take on how to think about the FDA’s decisions (some taken, some forthcoming) on approving or denying thousands of “pre-market tobacco applications” (PMTAs) to allow vaping products to remain on the US market.  FDA must make decisions no later than 9th September 2021, following legal action brought against the agency. FDA’s Director of the Center for Tobacco Products, Mitchel Zeller, provides the background in a February 2021 blog.

There’s a lot to be written on this, but I will settle for 16 observations and questions that will shape my take on FDA’s announcements.

Continue reading “Will FDA harm health, destroy businesses, and protect the cigarette industry through regulatory overkill? A preview.”

Health Canada consults on the really dumb idea of making vaping a less appealing alternative to smoking

Health Canada is trying to ban almost all vaping liquid flavours. This is on top of measures to limit nicotine strengths and marketing. It is the nearest they can get to a prohibition without actually having to prohibit the most promising low-risk rival to cigarettes. The likely effects are obvious: more smoking. But in a bizarre twisting of reality and evidence, Health Canada finds that making vaping less attractive relative to smoking will… um … reduce smoking. And that’s how it justifies the measure.  We respond with a counter-analysis.

Continue reading “Health Canada consults on the really dumb idea of making vaping a less appealing alternative to smoking”

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.

Continue reading “Letter: WHO must urgently reassess its tobacco & nicotine policy and stop causing harm”

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.

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

Holding the Bloomberg anti-vaping propaganda complex to account

An investigative report criticising Bloomberg’s anti-vaping stance draws a petulant response – we review the case

Bloomberg scrutinised. Unusually, a journalist decided to take a sceptical look at Bloomberg Philanthropies and its many proxies and the impact of their war against vaping.  The result is an excellent must-read piece by Mark Gunther (@MarcGunther) in the Chronicle of Philanthropy: Bloomberg’s Millions Funded an Effective Campaign Against Vaping. Could It Do More Harm Than Good? (web archive) (23 March 2021).

It is first-class public-interest journalism, with some hard messages for Bloomberg but plenty of balancing comment too.

The response. The interesting thing is that this drew a joint response from Kelly Henning of Bloomberg Philanthropies, Matthew Myers of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids and Robin Koval of the Truth Initiative. See Vaping and Philanthropy: Debating Strategies That Work (web archive).  There is a substrate of anger and panic in the letter that suggests that Gunther hit a raw nerve.

What is unusual about this letter is that Henning, Myers and Koval actually try to defend their positions.  Normally, they don’t defend their positions, they just assert them with millions of dollars of amplification. It offers a rare opportunity to provide a critique of their stance.  So I have taken their response letter, broken it down into 15 propositions, and provided a response to each.  Each section starts with a quote from the letter pulled out in a quote box in bold dark-blue. The letter is analysed in its entirety.
Continue reading “Holding the Bloomberg anti-vaping propaganda complex to account”