Standing for harm reduction: The EU’s duty to smokers worldwide

The pressure of the WHO to put all nicotine products under the same category means lost potential for thousands of smokers to switch to less harmful alternatives.

In an increasingly interconnected world, the actions of one region can reverberate far beyond its borders. Nowhere is this more evident than in matters of public health and harm reduction. As the European Union grapples with its stance on harm reduction strategies for smokers, the implications of its decisions stretch well beyond its borders, impacting global health and the fight against smoking-related harm.

Panama will be hosting the Tenth session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention for Tobacco Control (FCTC) this year in November, and it will carry significant importance for the future of public health. The results will affect harm reduction and vaping policies globally. However, the chance that COP10 will favour harm reduction approaches and vaping is highly doubtful, considering the strict approach that WHO has held against vaping in previous years.

Recently, another large US-wide study emphasised the effectiveness and the value of vaping as a smoking cessation aid. Not to consider what we already have known from Public Health England for years – that vaping is 95% less harmful than smoking. Of course, the list of positive results does not end there. The only reason why WHO has neglected this evidence is because it has already taken a side in the vaping debate.

Prohibition failing all the way

There are examples of multiple countries where the prohibition on vaping has already carried negative implications or will do so in the future.

For instance, India, which signed WHO FCTC in 2003, banned vaping in 2019. Prohibition in the country has been a major failure , driving consumers to the black market and putting them at risk of consuming riskier products than the ones available  on the legal market.

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Vaping can save 200 million lives and flavours play a key role in helping smokers quit. However, policymakers want to limit or ban flavours, putting our effort to end smoking-related deaths in jeopardy.

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