Clive Bates, the former director of the anti-smoking campaign group ASH, told reporters in a briefing last week that Britain must lobby internationally for a change in policy in order to save millions of people. lives. It came as parliamentarians called on the UK government to use its Brexit freedoms to have a “great independent voice” at the United Nations (UN) COP9 summit on tobacco harms to push for a greater use of electronic cigarettes as an alternative.
Mr Bates called the WHO “negligent and incompetent” and said the world health body “ignored the science”.
He said: “Millions of lives are at stake. This is not hyperbole. If you resist life-saving technology where progress has been very slow in the past, you are essentially guilty of denying people this life-saving technology and the result will be more illness and death.
He stressed that the WHO aims to reduce deaths from noncommunicable diseases by a third, but “they are far from on track.”
He said new devices and technologies mean nicotine can now be delivered with electric heating rather than from the heat of combustion.
“Combustion has always been the problem,” he said. “It releases thousands of harmful agents – carcinogens, respiratory sensitizers, cardiotoxic agents, etc.
“It is they, and not nicotine, which are responsible for the number of deaths and illnesses which now amount to eight million people worldwide per year according to the WHO. In terms of a scale that is comparable to the weight of mortality due to covid in 2019.
“These electronic cigarette products have the potential to reduce that eight million and eliminate many or all of the diseases and risks.”
Some estimates estimate that the risk could be reduced by 95%.
He criticized the WHO for awarding India’s Minister of Health with an award for banning electronic cigarettes when there are 100 million smokers in his country.
And he said that campaigns against new products are funded by US billionaires.
“If you are looking for the justification for this [in India] you will not see anything about the lost opportunities for these adult smokers, nothing about the illicit trade, nothing about the young people who are turned away from smoking.
“This is the most superficial level of policy development you have ever seen internationally and is championed by the WHO.
“WHO is really bad actors in this space. “
Lord Ridley, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on vaping, said he “hated cigarettes” and tobacco products, but warned that vested interests were trying to block e-cigarettes.
He said: “If something saved lives like a car seat belt and someone tried to ban it, that would be ridiculous and I see little difference.”
Its APPG report urged the government to find its new independent voice from the EU to push for international policy change.
He said: ‘Now that the UK has left the EU, it means that as the UN tobacco control talks approach, we are an independent voice, which we were not before. .
“Before, we had to be part of the EU’s position.
“An event like this, a country like the UK has a big voice.
“This is why the APPG report urged the UK to take a strong stance on harm reduction and the opportunity here to present a strong message on harm reduction. “
He added: “We are not trying to save the tobacco industry, we are trying to accelerate its decline.”
However, the WHO has claimed on its website that there is “growing evidence” of the risk from e-cigarettes.
He said: “It is difficult to generalize about the health risk of electronic cigarettes compared to cigarettes or other tobacco products, as it depends on a series of factors.
“Tobacco products andElectronic cigarettes present health risks. The safest approach is not to use either.
He added: “Emissions from electronic cigarettes generally contain nicotine and other toxic substances harmful to users and non-users who are exposed to aerosols as secondary. Some products claiming to be nicotine free contain nicotine.
“The evidence shows that these products are harmful to your health and are not safe. However, it is too early to provide a clear answer on the long term impact of their use or exposure.