The World Health Organization recently release a report on electronic cigarettes or ENDS (electronic nicotine Delivery Systems) as they call them. In the report (read the full report) they state:
It should be noted that ENDS are products resembling cigarettes and could therefore undermine the denormalization of tobacco use upheld by the WHO FCTC. One of the guiding principles of the guidelines for implementation of Article 12 (Education, communication, training and public awareness) is Norm change. It stipulates that it is “essential to change social, environmental and cultural norms and perceptions regarding the acceptability of the consumption of tobacco products, exposure to tobacco smoke …”. Parties are therefore invited to consider that a ban of ENDS as already undertaken by some Parties would contribute to changing the social norms regarding the consumption of tobacco products.
Recommending banning a product because it undermines the “denormalization of tobacco use” is no better than banning near-beer because it normalizes drinking beer. The fact is vaping is not smoking. And it can be done without any nicotine at all. The WHO’s goal of promoting health should not include changing the publics acceptance of a product that has never proven to be dangerous to public health. With all the concerns they have over e-cigarettes they can’t seem to come up with any data on it’s health effects even though it has been widely used across the world for over 5 years.
And an organization who’s mission includes “setting norms and standards” should be responsible about how it uses it’s power. Changing social acceptance and perceptions is a dangerous business and can infringe on personal rights and choices. It can also lead to unwarranted bias and discrimination against those participating in an activity.
Vaping has helped so many smokers it seems ridiculous to make any recommendations about it other than smokers should try it. If public health is the primary goal, then should the recommendations to smokers not include: quit smoking cold turkey and if you can’t do that intake your nicotine in a less harmful form. The fact is they do, it is just they only recommend nicotine replacement therapies such as the patch or gum. Hell they even recommend using drugs such as Chantix with some harsh side effects. But they refuse to acknowledge the e-cigarette in this category. Is it because the pharmaceutical companies are not selling it? When and if the day comes when big pharma sells the product, the WHO will undoubtably be on board.
The truth is, the WHO takes money from pharmaceutical companies who sell NRTs. So can they be objective about what they recommend? If we asked “what if an e-cigarette company gave the WHO millions of dollars”, would they still recommend banning it? I hope the WHO makes recommendations based on scientific date and the interests of public health. I hope.