WHO Responsible for increased smoking rates in Southeast Asia?

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A growing body of medical and scientific research and subsequent advice says vaping is almost 100% better for people than smoking, and can help save their health and lives if they use e-cigarettes to quit tobacco. But the global health body responsible for people’s lives around the world refuses to agree and continues to thumb its nose at top experts’ findings and advice, perplexing many in the medical and public health establishments.

Vaping association members from around the world were alarmed by a recent World Health Organization (WHO) meeting, where leading research into vaping and its health benefits was again cast aside. “Calls for reform to global vaping policy have fallen on deaf ears,” they wrote in a letter to the Financial Times after the October meeting. “Following the Eighth Session of the Conference of Parties (COP8) in Geneva this month, the World Health Organization’s tobacco control group has once again refused to acknowledge the need to treat vaping distinctly from smoking.”

They said that, two years ago, the WHO advised member states to ban e-cigarettes, while at the same time saying vaping could help people to stop smoking — “a position as confusing for consumers as it was for public health officials and regulators,” the authors wrote. They have since “issued a call to action to the WHO to remedy this contradiction. Consumer groups and academics have also made separate appeals.”

Deadly Smoking Allowed But ‘Healthier’ E-Cigs Banned

Many countries — especially developing nations in places like Southeast Asia — base their vaping legislation on the WHO’s advice and its refusal to support e-cigarettes. This has led to a situation where smoking is permitted, as well as all kinds of cigarette advertising, but devices like e-cigarettes that could save lives are banned.

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In August, the WHO’s Tobacco Control Programme chief, Vinayak Prasad, said in an interview for an article by vaping retailer Electric Tobacconist USA that the health body would not be backing vaping, and he dismissed research into e-cigarettes that concludes it’s far better than smoking.

“We do not recommend the use of vaping products — or any other smoking product — but the use of licensed and recommended forms of nicotine to help adult smokers quit smoking,” Prasad said. “The existing body of scientific evidence regarding the effectiveness of [vaping] as a smoking cessation aid is scant and of low certainty.”

Top Support for Vaping

This is despite that health authorities, such as Public Health England (PHE) in the UK, have researched vaping to discover any possible risks to human health and concluded that using e-cigarettes is virtually harmless compared to smoking.

“Our new review reinforces the finding that vaping is a fraction of the risk of smoking, at least 95% less harmful, and of negligible risk to bystanders,” said PHE’s director for health improvement, Professor John Newton. “Yet,” he said, “over half of smokers either falsely believe that vaping is as harmful as smoking or just don’t know. It would be tragic if thousands of smokers who could quit with the help of an e-cigarette are being put off due to false fears about their safety.”

Others, such as the UK’s National Health Service, say large amounts of people who once battled to get off cigarettes are now finding that they have kicked the habit with the use of e-cigarettes, which are readily and cheaply available at a good vape store online. And e-cigs don’t even have to contain nicotine, which, after all, is not the real enemy. There are many different types of e-liquid with various strengths of nicotine, as well as those with no nicotine at all and just the fruity and other flavors.

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The WHO’s figures show that at least seven million people die each year from tobacco-related illnesses — and equally shocking is that this includes nearly one million people who never smoked, but inhaled secondhand smoke. It’s the single biggest preventable cause of death, and yet the world’s health body remains unwilling to try and roll back this enormous toll by suggesting smokers vape instead.