New GSTHR Briefing Paper Urges WHO’s FCTC to Stop Ignoring Tobacco Harm Reduction

Inline with pleas by other tobacco harm reduction entities, a recent GSTHR Briefing Paper is calling upon the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and the Conference of the Parties (FCTC COP10) to incorporate tobacco harm reduction in its discussions.

In November 2023 representatives from over 180 countries are meeting in Panama to attend the tenth Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). Last year’s COP9 virtual conference was (as in previous years) closed off to the public and only accessible to a handful of selected media representatives. While the Climate-related COP26 allowed the attendance of 2,360 NGOs, the FCTC COP9 just allowed 21 handpicked NGOs. Sadly, none of these represented populations who will be affected by the decisions taken at the conference.

This meeting is held every two years and will have a great impact of the future direction of international tobacco control policies and how they are implemented. Tragically, despite the importance of this event, it is infamous for being secretive and held behind closed doors, leaving many stakeholders, such as smoking cessation experts and consumers out of discussions. Titled “The Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) and the Conference of the Parties (COP): an explainer”, the GSTHR document explains the event in great depth and how it operates.

Tobacco harm reduction should be part of the conversation
Meanwhile, given that governments will be sending their delegates to COP10 in November 2023, CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates) made it a point to send comprehensive reference material in time for their COP10 planning and deliberations. CAPHRA’s nine member organisations have written to FCTC delegates and health leaders from across the globe, urging them to review the science on Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) ahead of COP10.

‘We do this on behalf of the four million current users of safer nicotine products in the wider Asia Pacific region. As you are aware, our region bears the brunt of the harm and death from combustible and unsafe oral tobacco globally,’ said the letter.

The document reminds the delegates that the FCTC has a mandate to pursue Harm Reduction as a core tobacco control policy. It also highlighted that the FCTC’s policy to make COP10 sessions closed-door, unaccountable, and unreported is unacceptable. “Delegates to COP10 should be representing the rights and aspirations of the citizens whose taxes are paying for their attendance, who expect them to speak on their behalf, acknowledge the science underpinning the harm reduction benefits of ENDS, and maintain democratic principles,” they wrote.

White paper dispels WHO’s inaccurate claims
A 2022 white paper compiled and published extensive research which which clearly indicates that the World Health Organization’s (WHO) official health claims about vaping couldn’t be more inaccurate.

Titled ‘The Subversion of Public Health: Consumer Perspectives’, the recently released white paper dispelled many of these inaccuracies, including the claim that “never-smoker minors who use ENDS (Electronic Nicotine Delivery Systems) can double their chance of starting to smoke tobacco cigarettes later in life.”

The paper was presented at the Fifth Asia Harm Reduction Forum (AHRF 2022) after which it was released publicly. It incorporates a review of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) approach and guidance on safer nicotine products (SNP), specifically vapes. The paper highlights that scientific evidence about the products has sadly not been included in any WHO guidance and/or shared with signatories and delegates of the FCTC.