IBVTA writes to Health Secretary regarding WHO’s anti-vaping agenda
The IBVTA are the only trade association in the UK solely focused on the independent vape industry. As such our members are free from the ownership or control of the tobacco or pharmaceutical industries.
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 over 1.9 million are ex-smokers.(1) 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 (2), more and more local stop smoking services and NHS Trusts are actively promoting the use of e-cigarettes as a quitting tool.
This wealth of credible independent data has given the Government the confidence to take a more positive position towards vaping and the regulation of vaping. There is a thriving and responsible vape industry serving these consumers, and smoking rates are at a record low level (3).
The IBVTA is writing to you regarding the World Health Organisation’s recent ‘’Q & A” post which it published on the 20th of January, and was subsequently updated on the 31st of January (4). This post has rightly received a lot of criticism from independent experts both here in the UK, and internationally. This criticism is justified because the WHO:
- does not clearly communicate the relative safety of vaping versus what it replaces – smoking
- misrepresents the currently available evidence on nicotine
- scandalously purports that vaping is no safer than smoking
- over-simplifies the addictiveness of nicotine, when consumed outside of a tobacco cigarette
- claims that vaping is harmful to bystanders, despite there being no evidence that this is the case
- implicitly encourages countries to ban e-cigarettes
The IBVTA supports the measures in the Government’s Tobacco Control Plan which aim to provide smokers and the public with clear, evidence based and accurate information on the relative harm of nicotine and e-cigarettes, and support health professionals in advising smokers who want to use e-cigarettes to quit (5).
We therefore call on the government to utilise the world-renowned expertise of the UK’s public health academic community, and issue a robust and public response to the WHO’s statements and claims.
This is important for two reasons:
(1) The government is investing £15 million of 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 on vaping does not align with the evidence of the contribution to this country’s public health, nor does it align with the pragmatic and evidence-based approach to vaping taken by the UK government which is driving down our smoking rates. Smokers who may be thinking of using an e-cigarette in a quit attempt will very likely be put off doing so by this communication by the WHO. The government must do all that it can to stop this from happening further and not be seen to fund two distinct and opposite positions.
In addition to a public response, the FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP9) is expected to take place in October this year, and the UK’s stance and consequent experience is one that should be shared with all interested parties.
(2) UK tobacco control academics and experts are world leaders in this field of research.
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 as to who actually vapes and why. This research, and the experience of the pragmatic approach to the regulation and communication of relative risk is vital because of the UK government’s commitment to reducing smoking rates to below 5% by 2030.
Given the accelerated reduction in smoking rates in the time that vaping has been available as a means to aid quitting, it is unlikely that this target can be met without vaping being: a) recognized as a safe (certainly relative to tobacco and some quit medications) and effective quit aid; and b) regarded in the generally positive light that it deserves by the UK populace, particularly those who smoke.
If the WHO followed the lead of countries like the UK, smoking rates globally really could start to fall. It is the responsibility of the government to make this clear.