The World Health Organization (WHO) has always been an indicator of global public health. It has the ability to influence the regulatory policies of countries and regions. Its decision-making is also closely related to public health institutions and relevant health organizations.
With the rapid development of new tobacco industry in recent years, electronic cigarettes have become the focus of attention of WHO. Governments often cite WHO statements to combat electronic cigarettes.
Every WHO meeting and decision-making is very lethal to the electronic cigarette industry. It can be said that it is a thorn in the development of the electronic cigarette industry. As long as the organization does not recognize the harm reducing effect of new tobacco, the public’s perception of electronic cigarette will be negative.
In 2014, WHO published a research bulletin saying that e-cigarettes are harmful to health. At the same time, the relevant officials denounced the enterprises in the market, believing that tobacco companies disguised e-cigarettes as health products to solve the health problems caused by tobacco. Since then, health-related public health organizations around the world have begun to lash out at electronic cigarettes, and opposition has begun to heat up.
In 2015, WHO also indicated to member countries that it was proposed to ban e-cigarettes. If countries had adopted relevant policies, they hoped that they could strictly regulate e-cigarettes. They could draw up relevant policies in accordance with traditional tobacco laws and regulations or formulate other relevant policies.
Subsequently, the World Health Organization (WHO) advocated the restriction and prohibition of the use of electronic cigarettes at the November 2016 Tobacco Control Conference, at which the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) was adopted.
Since then, FCTC has become a major convention for global tobacco control. Whether it gives tobacco policy recommendations or formulates a tobacco control plan, members of FCTC have met to discuss it and issued it at the WHO Global Conference after making decisions.
It is precisely because FCTC is closely related to the electronic cigarette industry that the global government and relevant public health institutions attach great importance to its regulatory decision-making. It is also an important hub affecting the global electronic cigarette regulatory policy. Therefore, we decided to dig into the WHO information to understand the future regulatory planning of new tobacco and how to view vape.
This FCTC certification is the WHO’s internal training certificate for Tobacco-Free products in the Global Tobacco Control Program, which needs to go through four stages: registration, class, examination and final audit. After a lot of efforts, Wang Yuyang, president of TTHRA of Taiwan Tobacco Harm Reduction Association, finally went into the global tobacco control base and obtained the FCTC certificate.
As the saying goes, if you know your enemy, you will never die in a hundred battles. Wang Yuyang said that after this course training, we fully understand the future trend of FCTC, how WHO views e-cigarettes, and whether the WHO’s decision-making direction is determined.
According to Wang’s in-depth understanding, at present, FCTC still adopts a “tobacco product supervision” attitude towards heat not burn, electronic cigarettes and other new tobacco products. In the process of the course, FCTC not only gives a brief introduction to electronic cigarettes, but also explains the regulatory methods of some countries. Most of the other textbooks are negative content related to electronic cigarettes.
Although many research institutes around the world have confirmed that the harm of electronic cigarettes is much lower than that of traditional cigarettes, and some WHO member countries have vigorously promoted electronic cigarettes, Wang stressed that WHO does not attach importance to these data and neglects these important scientific research results. “FCTC’s attitude towards electronic cigarettes is very clear. Basically, the members who can participate in the course are defenders, tobacco hazard reduction experts, tobacco control scholars, doctors, PhD, etc. The course focuses on publicizing how harmful e-cigarettes are and expecting them to assist and participate in regulatory decisions in their respective countries.
More alarming is that Wang Yuyang is also the only participant in the FCTC curriculum in the world related to the electronic cigarette industry.
After two hours of discussions with Danny, we summed up the following:
1. WHO’s attitude towards e-cigarettes is not friendly. It is still hoped that governments around the world will strictly prohibit it in the future. If it cannot be completely prohibited, it is suggested to replace it with a strong regulatory policy.
2. the focus of control of FCTC has been divorced from traditional tobacco, and it has been oriented towards new tobacco. The emphasis also includes tobacco products and special nicotine products, such as BQ with tobacco in India.
3. FCTC actually knows about electronic cigarettes, but most of them disseminate the negative information of electronic cigarettes both internally and externally, while ignoring the research and scientific data. It calls on scholars in relevant fields to actively participate in the prohibition policy of electronic cigarettes.
4. Fueled by the above three points, the regulatory policies of electronic cigarettes in various countries will become increasingly stringent, and even some regions will adopt prohibition policies under the pressure of WHO.
5. If the electronic cigarette industry wants long-term development, relevant enterprises, groups and practitioners should intensify their efforts to communicate with public health institutions and non-governmental organizations in a bid to resist WHO’s decision to control tobacco.
On the other hand, WHO FCTC did not comment on New Zealand’s use of electronic cigarettes and heat not burn products to reach the end game of the tobacco industry (EndGame; smoking population less than 5%). WHO FCTC did not express its opinion, and the relevant personnel emphasized that the experts of the smoke-free tobacco products (SmokeLess Tobacco) were invited to explain and discuss this part in the COP9 conference of Holland in 2020.
We have mentioned in past articles that although WHO strongly advocates nicotine substitution, on the one hand, it kills and does not recognize the harm reduction value of electronic cigarettes. NRT and e-cigarettes also contain high levels of nicotine. Some studies have confirmed that e-cigarettes are more effective than NRT products on the market. Why does WHO discriminate against products with the same known risks?
In addition, the WHO believes that e-cigarettes will undermine the current tobacco control work, indicating that it may become a tobacco gateway for adolescents, but there is no research to support the claim that it seems unfair to be a public health organization representing the interests of the global people.
In fact, according to a new study in the British Medical Journal, FCTC has not accelerated the decline in global tobacco consumption. Many people may think that these life-saving policies are very successful, but unfortunately, the results of the survey are not satisfactory. Although people in rich countries such as the United States and the United Kingdom are reducing their smoking habits, tobacco consumption is increasing in Indonesia and Vietnam, with more than 500 cigarettes per capita per month.
This means that the focus of FCTC control is indeed misplaced, ignoring the hazards of tobacco in the blindness to crack down on electronic cigarettes. Apart from that, the UK and the USA are the areas where e-cigarettes are very popular, which indirectly proves that e-cigarettes have led to a decline in the smoking rate of traditional tobacco. If studies show that e-cigarettes are less harmful, is it better for FCTC to actively promote them?
Looking at the countries and regions that intend to ban e-cigarettes in the near future, almost all government regulators are under the WHO name, that is to say, as long as WHO maintains its stand, e-cigarettes will not be able to play a real value of harm reduction.
Although electronic cigarettes still have health risks and should be strictly regulated, we believe that they are not as “bad” as the WHO says. In fact, many health institutions and organizations around the world have recognized e-cigarettes. As long as the headache of “adolescent addiction” is solved, e-cigarettes can help many countries implement smoke-free policies.
Tobacco products have legally taken too many lives from us, but now electronic cigarettes are gradually demonized. Is this really good for people’s health? Referring to the story of self-reliance and self-indulgence, we hope that the relevant institutions who truly stand in the public health perspective can think carefully.