British Study Group Takes On WHO (...No, not "Doctor Who.")
It looks like a parliamentary study group in the UK isn't too keen on the position of the World Health Organization (WHO,) in regard to vaping. They've recently called on the British government and health authorities to challenge this stance.
Up until now, (despite the UK being one of the most sizeable advocates for vaping as a way to quit smoking,) the UK generally hasn't pushed for the WHO to change its stance of anti-vape prohibition. But there's a little bit of a backstory to this whole thing, and why the WHO's policies are being examined more critically.
No, not THAT "The Who," the OTHER WHO.
I'm assuming THESE guys are all very cool with vaping.
For those of you who—like me—have never heard of them, there is a group called the FCTC; the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control. These folks are an international treaty organization, comprised of 182 member states, and serve as the anti-tobacco arm of the WHO. Not surprisingly, the FCTC's agenda (along with the other WHO tobacco control operations,) are influenced by private tobacco control organizations; such as The Union, and the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids.
Former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg is a fairly well-known billionaire, and the largest funder of the international lobbying and policy work for these aforementioned anti-tobacco efforts around the globe. These Blumberg-bankrolled organizations all push for vaping bans, which means whenever prohibitionists need to make policy demands, Bloomberg's wallet quickly becomes a big pair of red-tape cutting scissors, like the world's most boring transformer.
"Autobots! ...Transform and roll over the opposition to
prohibitionist policy demands!"
Bloomberg was eventually named the WHO's "Global Ambassador for Noncommunicable Diseases and Injuries," (which is just an honorary position. It's like the WHO said, "Hey, man. We really agree with you, and like that you give us money.") When the WHO started "encouraging and applauding bans on vaping," a four-month parliamentary inquiry was aimed at the FCTC.
(When someone's funding a group that awards them simply for existing as their piggybank, and said group has sway over 182 member states and their vaping policies, it's not hard to imagine why people may want to look into that, to make sure everything is on the up-and-up, right?)
So, getting back to that parliamentary study group we were talking about at the start of this article; they investigated for four months, and eventually the APPG (the All-Party Parliamentary Group,) released a final report. British Conservative Mark Pawsey, chair of the APPG, tweeted the report, with an additional message:
You can't argue with the sentiment that people should listen to science. (I mean, unless you were part of the Trump administration, I suppose.) In fact, since 2015, the UK government has maintained a very famous pronouncement that vaping is "95 percent safer" than smoking,
The British Government is a big advocate for vaping as a way to reduce smoking, and they currently provide the bulk of the FCTC Secretariat's funding. (The Secretariat leads and operates the FCTC.) One would think that, since it exists to put policies into effect which are demanded by those 182 member countries we've mentioned before, that is how they operate. Unfortunately, it isn't. Instead, the Secretariat is telling the 182 member countriess to carry out the policies promoted by the groups funded by Bloomberg.
Since the WHO and Bloomberg are in cahoots, (A very old-timey word that makes anyone who says it out loud sound like a crazed 1800's prospector,) the UK government has been advised by the APPG that they should consider "dramatically scaling back" its funding of the WHO and FCTC, if those groups don't start playing ball, (rugby?) and reconsider their anti-vape stance and policies.
The report also states that the FCTC is no longer performing to its original objectives, which is completely fair to say; the FCTC is supposed to be all about harm reduction, but that aspect of their operation seems to be completely ignored. This is especially surprising, given that vaping has been widely regarded as a fantastic measure to help reduce smoking in general.
Other countries have agreed with the UK pushing back against the WHO's attempts to ban vaping in the UK, wondering why their own countries aren't being just as brave, and working to reduce the risk of smoking for their own people?
The down side to all of this boils down to what it always boils down to. Super-rich people using their money to get whatever they want, to the detriment of anyone who disagrees with them. Because the FCTC Secretariat is linked arm-in-arm with Bloomberg and his tobacco control groups, the UK is going to need to get support from other big countries in line with their current stance that vaping is harm reduction. Since Brexit has hurt the UK's influence with the European Union, that's not looking too likely.
...Good one, England.
The report from the APPG suggests that the UK send a balanced delegation of officials and experts (including proponents of evidence-based policy and harm reduction,) to the ninth FCTC Conference of the Parties, which is being held in the Netherlands later this year. This conference will be a meeting of all 182 member states of the FCTC, and a perfect time and place for this topic to be brought to light. This would be quite a departure from tradition, as in previous years, the delegations being sent to the conference—called COP9, for those of you wondering—have been composed members who didn't bother to oppose the FCTC's policies in the least.
In regard to the upcoming conference, Mark Pawsey, (who Tweeted that we should all listen to science,) said, "We are a world leader in tobacco harm reduction, and we call on the Government to defend the UK approach, challenge the WHO to stub out their ban on vaping, and help return the FCTC to its founding pillar of harm reduction.”
Time can only tell if anyone—the WHO especially—will benefit from this conference, let alone actually heed the science, instead of following the commands of Mike Bloomberg's wallet.