The World Health Organization recently held a conference in New Delhi with e-cigarettes as the main topic of discussion. A report by an unnamed Swiss author prompted the conference, which was held to discuss the safety of e-cigarettes and whether or not they should be allowed or banned.
WHO has acknowledged that e-cigarettes are in all likelihood significantly safer than smoking, and the author of the study that brought about the ban discussion called switching from smoking to vaping an achievement for public health.
WHO called the conference “public” and it was paid for by taxpayers, but anyone who supports e-cigarettes and vaping was not allow to attend.
So what is going on here? That’s the question that many in the vaping community were asking, and they responded to their ejection from the meeting by holding a conference of their own nearby. The conference organizers and members drafted The Delhi Declaration, which demands that WHO allow adult smokers to have equal access to e-cigarettes and vaping products.
The concerns expressed about e-cigarettes are the usual: We don’t want kids to start vaping and we don’t know enough about e-cigarettes yet. The vaping community once again had to try to overcome these objections with some plain common sense. The issue of children and e-cigarettes should be dealt with by way of regulations, not complete bans. Complete bans leave adult smokers without access to a product that is known to be significantly safer than tobacco cigarettes. As for knowledge of the long-term safety of e-cigarettes, it is not usual for products to be withheld from the market until long-term safety testing can be accomplished. Or, as Tom Pinlac, president of the Vapers Philippines put it, ““If we had waited for clinical studies and scientific certainty, we wouldn’t have seat belts, motorcycle helmets, cleaner fuel, or healthier foods.”
While the attitude in the United States towards e-cigarettes is largely negative, some progress is being made by politicians who object to heavy taxes and ban on e-cigarettes. The United Kingdom could be called the current world leader in e-cigarette approval, as it has declared e-cigarettes 95 percent safer than smoking and encourages smokers to switch. But other parts of the world have a very negative view of e-cigarettes, especially in places where smoking is a bigger problem than it is in the west. Asian countries are home to most of the world’s smokers, about two-thirds, but some Asian countries have banned e-cigarettes completely.
With WHO acknowledging on the one hand that e-cigarettes are safer than smoking, but on the other hand considering banning them anyway, there are suspicions of ulterior motives. Cigarette tax money is on the decline in areas where smoking rates are dropping, so governments and health organizations that support them might secretly prefer that a portion of the population, at least, keep right on smoking. In the U.S., out-and-out bans on e-cigarettes are not as popular as taxing e-cigarettes as if they are the same as tobacco cigarettes – which the Food and Drug Administration says that they are.
There is no word yet on what WHO decided on the subject of e-cigarettes, so we will have to wait and see, and be prepared to fight back if they fail to do the right thing.