IBVTA statement on new WHO report
The World Health Organisation have launched their eighth report on the global tobacco epidemic. This report tracks the progress made by countries in tobacco control since 2008, and for the first time presents data on alternative nicotine products, including e-cigarettes.
Unfortunately, the WHO once again fails to take into account the huge volume of research conducted since they published their last report in 2019. Instead, it continues to cherry-pick the evidence in such a way as to justify its anti-vaping stance. Furthermore, through its rhetoric, the report:
- does not clearly communicate the relative safety of vaping versus what it replaces – smoking
- misrepresents the currently available evidence on harm from nicotine, or more importantly the lack of it
- over-simplifies the addictiveness of nicotine when consumed by means other than a tobacco cigarette
- claims that vaping is harmful to bystanders, despite there being much evidence that this is not the case
- claims that vaping does not help people to quit smoking, despite randomised control trial and epidemiological evidence to the contrary
- implicitly encourages governments to view vaping and smoking as the same, and to ban e-cigarettes
The UK continues to be a world leader in harm reduction through vaping. There are now 3.6 million vapers in the UK, of which almost 2 million are ex-smokers. As the largest randomised control trial conducted to date shows that e-cigarettes are almost twice as effective as Nicotine Replacement Therapy for smoking cessation , more and more local stop smoking services and NHS Trusts are actively promoting the use of e-cigarettes as a quitting tool.
The UK government provides monetary Official Development Assistance to promote the implementation of the World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) through the FCTC 2030 project.
The messaging from the WHO in this latest report does not align with the evidence of vaping’s contribution to this country’s public health. Neither does it align with the pragmatic and evidence-based approach to vaping taken by the UK government which is known to be measurably driving down our smoking rates . The UK government should therefore do all that it can to stop further miscommunication by the WHO, and not be seen to fund a position that is contrary to its own policies.
In the UK, and in England in particular, academia, many health charities, and many in the wider public health community have for many years undertaken research into vaping. They have surveyed users and produced reams of data concerning who actually vapes and why. The results have shown that vaping is used almost exclusively to reduce or quit smoking, that it is safe and effective in enabling quitting, and cost-effective when compared with smoking. This research firmly endorses the need to enable accurate communication of relative risk, particularly if the UK government is to achieve its ambition of reducing smoking rates to below 5% by 2030.
Speaking on the launch of the report, Prof John Britton, Emeritus Professor of Epidemiology, University of Nottingham, and special advisor to the Royal College of Physicians on Tobacco, said: “The WHO is also evidently still content with the hypocrisy of adopting a position which recommends the use of medicinal nicotine products to treat addiction to smoking, but advocates prohibition of consumer nicotine products which do the same thing, but better. The WHO is right that non-smokers, especially children, should be discouraged from using any nicotine product. But for the more than one billion tobacco smokers in the world, electronic nicotine delivery systems are part of the solution, not the problem.”
Gillian Golden, IBVTA CEO said: “This country is an example to the world on how a pragmatic approach to vaping and harm reduction can drive down smoking rates and improve public health. Smokers who may be thinking of using an e-cigarette in a quit attempt will very likely be put off doing so by this report. When that happens, the WHO, through yet another miscommunication on the relative safety and effectiveness of vaping, will be the direct cause of unnecessary disease and death.”