NEW DELHI―Vapers called on the World Health Organization to allow the world’s one billion smokers to have equal access to safer alternatives to cigarettes.
Officials in closed-door meetings between the WHO and government health ministries in Delhi this week were considering banning electronic cigarettes, despite acknowledging they are significantly safer than cigarettes. They ejected vapers and consumer groups from their ‘public’, taxpayer-funded meetings on Monday.
Consumers fought back at a conference nearby. “On behalf of millions of us who now vape instead of smoke, and in support of the one billion smokers who deserve access to safer alternatives to cigarettes, we adopt today The Delhi Declaration, calling on the WHO and our countries’ representatives at COP-7 to allow us to have equal access to safer alternatives to cigarettes,” said Tom Pinlac, president of The Vapers Philippines.
E-cigarettes have been endorsed by the UK government as 95 percent safer than cigarettes. They are widely available in England, the USA and the EU, leading millions of smokers to quit cigarettes for good, according to a study published this month in the scientific journal Addiction. They have recently become the most popular way to quit smoking in Switzerland.
Ironically, it is Swiss-based WHO bureaucrats who are leading the call to clamp down on vape products. A report by an unnamed author at the WHO Secretariat in Geneva is the basis for this week’s negotiations. Despite acknowledging that e-cigarettes are “very likely ...less toxic than cigarette smoke” and that smokers switching to e-cigarettes “would represent a significant contemporary public health achievement,” the report recommends banning or severely restricting electronic cigarettes, citing concerns about youth experimentation and the lack of clinical studies on long-term safety.
“If we had waited for clinical studies and scientific certainty, we wouldn’t have seat belts, motorcycle helmets, cleaner fuel, or healthier foods,” said Pinlac.
“There is no doubt e-cigarettes are much safer than cigarettes. Banning them shows disdain for our health and we are the ones who pay the price. Concerns about youth are very important, but that should be addressed through appropriate, balanced regulation not bans,” he said.
The need for safer alternatives to cigarettes is particularly acute in Asia, home to two-thirds of the world’s smokers. “This is a development issue. While Western Europe, England and the United States allow e-cigarettes and have seen smoking rates plummet, the number of smokers in the developing world is growing,” said Nilesh Jain of the Indian Vapers Association.