COP7 cop out: Report crushed by UK expert criticism

Can latest demolition job finally embarrass WHO health czars into seeing sense on vaping?

World Health Organization cops some real flak today on its attitude to personal vaporisers (e-cigs, vaping, and ENDS).



It recently put out a report as a starter for an upcoming global get-together of health ministers at the COP7 meeting (Delhi, Nov 7-12) about whether to allow vaping.

Australia is sending three top bureaucrats from the Department of Health, but despite our best efforts we have not been allowed to know who they are. So much for transparency.

Now a bunch of luminary doctors, scientists and medical in the UK has published a full and exhaustive critique of WHO's stance - and that's putting it politely.

According to the UK Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, the WHO report fails to accurately present what is already known about e-cigarettes. In particular, it:

  • positions e-cigarettes as a threat rather than an opportunity to reduce smoking;
  • fails to accurately quantify any risks of e-cigarettes compared with smoking;
  • misrepresents existing evidence about any harms to bystanders;
  • discounts the fact that e-cigarettes are helping smokers to quit;
  • does not recognise the place of some promotion of e-cigarettes to encourage smokers to switch to these less harmful products;
  • fails to understand that the flavours in e-cigarettes are useful for people trying to stop smoking;
  • mischaracterizes the current e-cigarette market and appears to support very restrictive policies on e-cigarettes without including any good policy analysis.
  • does not acknowledge that significant restrictions on e-cigarettes could lead to unintended consequences, including increases in smoking.

And that's just the press release – the executive summary is more damning. Here's a selection of unplayable fast balls:

  • citations simply reflect opinions or speculation, while important studies have been overlooked.
  • does not properly assess the role that ENDS play in quitting smoking and uncritically repeats several methodological errors.
  • fails to acknowledge the threat of disruptive technology such as ENDS to the commercial viability of the traditional cigarette business
  • there is no scientific support for ENDS prohibition as a public health intervention
  • discussion is 'naïve'
  • policies are proposed without any supporting evidence for their effectiveness or cost-effectiveness
  • report has been made available without the four supporting papers upon which it is supposed to be based
  • some of the proposed policies would have the effect of increasing smoking”
  • and perhaps most damaging of all: “WHO should not be endorsing prohibitions, explicitly or implicitly. It is unethical to deny smokers much lower risk options than cigarettes

Whew. This is just the summary – there are 30 more pages of this!

Don't forget, folks – this is the WHO that last year told us our snags and bacon give us cancer...

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