E-Cigarette Giant Rips The ‘WHO’s Silence On Vaping’

Steve Birr | Vice Reporter

A giant of the vaping market is blasting global health regulators for ignoring the benefits of harm reduction technologies for smokers.

Representatives for Fontem Ventures, makers of the popular e-cigarette brand, blu, are calling on the World Health Organization (WHO) to acknowledge the role alternative technologies can play in reducing smoking rates. Officials at the WHO should seize the opportunity offered by the upcoming World No Tobacco Day to expose smokers to the benefits vaping has to offer, instead of undermining the industry with misinformation, the company argues.

An avalanche of peer reviewed research shows vapor products drastically slash risks from combustible cigarettes, but advocates note, “the WHO has not recognized the harm reduction potential of vaping, missing a significant opportunity to accelerate the move away from tobacco products.” (RELATED: Tobacco Control Desperately Fears Dialogue)

“The current generation of smokers are ill-served by the WHO’s silence on vaping,” Andrew Gregson, director of corporate and legal affairs at Fontem Ventures, said in a statement Friday. “It’s time for change, and World No Tobacco Day would be the perfect opportunity for the WHO to talk about vaping and give smokers across the world the best information on how to make the switch from combustible tobacco.”

The company notes the WHO’s historically adversarial position toward vapor products contradicts the message of health care bodies in WHO member countries — particularly the United Kingdom. The devices eliminate 95 percent of the risks of combustible cigarettes, because the majority of cancer causing chemicals are released when tobacco is burned, Public Health England, an arm of the U.K.’s Department of Health, recently confirmed in an independent review of existing research.

“Data showing the decline of smoking rates in countries where vaping is recognized as an alternative for smokers is incontrovertible, and a clear, evidence-based position on vaping would strengthen public health campaigns targeting smokers,” Gregson said. “The time for candor is now.”

The U.K. currently has the second lowest smoking rate in all of Europe, and officials say vaping is a big part of the reason. The country is the global leader in tobacco harm reduction policy, encouraging smokers to ditch combustible tobacco for a healthier option. There are currently roughly 3 million active vapers in the U.K.

Researchers estimate around 20,000 smokers in the U.K. are using e-cigarettes to quit smoking each year.

Roughly 6 million European smokers have already quit cigarettes using vaping devices, a 2014 European Union-commissioned study showed.

Public health advocates say efforts to spread misinformation on alternative smoking options that minimize their benefits simply deny smokers less harmful options while tacitly encouraging them to keep using a more dangerous product.

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Steve Birr

Vice Reporter

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