Month: June 2022

FDA’s Juul crackdown is the latest blow in the irrational war on nicotine

Last week, the Food and Drug Administration handed down a consequential decision affecting millions of consumers: a marketing denial order for Juul Labs, maker of the popular pod-based Juul vaping device.

It’s best summarized as an immediate ban on Juul products.

This forces gas stations, convenience stores, vape shops, and other establishments that stock these devices and their flavored pods to immediately stop selling them to customers who want them.

Now, the FDA’s actions have been temporarily halted by the D.C. Appeals Court, giving the company additional time to argue its case in the judicial system.

While the judicial order is a fleeting sigh of relief for users of these products, it marks only the latest causality in the public health establishment’s irrational war on nicotine and nicotine products. And a sign that yet more denials will continue to reduce consumers’ access to nicotine alternatives, products known to be much less harmful than smoking.

The convoluted and byzantine process Juul failed is known as the Premarket Tobacco Product Application, an FDA-mandated permission test for any firm wanting to sell a new tobacco product (all pre-2007 are grandfathered in).  As one would guess, the standards for this test are opaque, unclear, and entirely arbitrary.

Only a handful of vaping products have been able to pass the FDA’s mandate of “improving public health” since 2015, and only one not made by a tobacco company. As of writing, there are tens of thousands of vaping devices, liquids, and component parts still awaiting their fate from the FDA.

That latter point is an important one because the FDA — and laws passed by Congress — now recognize vaping products, even those containing synthetic rather than tobacco-derived nicotine, as tobacco, which justified this strenuous process.

What the bureaucratic labyrinth forced on every mom-and-pop vaping firm and tobacco company alike shows us is that the FDA has a persistent bias against consumer use of nicotine vaping — and nicotine more broadly.

On its own website, the FDA lists the products it has approved for quitting smoking, mainly pharmaceutical drugs like Chantix and Zyban, or nicotine patches or gums from Nicorette, distributed in the U.S. by pharma giant GlaxoSmithKline.

The United Kingdom’s government, on the other hand, recognizes the benefits of vaping devices and actively recommends them, citing the figure of 1.2 million British vapers who have now quit smoking.

The UK cites internationally available scientific research and endorsements by health bodies as another reason why smokers should consider putting down their cigarettes for a vape. Does the FDA not have access to this data? Or is this part of a bigger trend?

In the same month the FDA handed down this decision, it is seeking public comments on its proposed bans on flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes and will soon introduce a rule limiting nicotine levels allowed in cigarettes. How these rules will impact the relationship between law enforcement and minority communities –  who use menthol products more often – has yet to be clarified, and neither has the risk of increased illicit markets, already the case in Massachusetts and Canada, which have their own menthol bans.

To think that when states are looking to legalize cannabis to end the drug war, it is baffling that we are beginning a new drug war on nicotine at the same time.

In all of this, the leading assumption, as the FDA website clearly states, is that people looking to quit already have the answers, and those answers are pharmaceutical products or nicotine abstinence programs that have received the government stamp of approval.

The millions of Americans who have quit smoking through vaping devices bought at gas stations or vape shops are taking a risk the FDA deems too dangerous, or as many health campaigners note are “more dangerous” than smoking.

Those claims stand against a litany of scientific studies and papers that prove that vaping is a less harmful alternative to tobacco use.

Why then, would noted anti-tobacco groups such as the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, the Lung Association, and others be so focused on banning vaping products?

The nationwide anti-vaping efforts represent an organized effort by activist and tobacco control groups — often connected to the funding of billionaire former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg — to try to eliminate vaping as a safe and accessible nicotine alternative to combustible cigarettes.

We know this from several countries where these groups helped push vaping bans, such as Mexico and the Philippines, but also from Bloomberg’s $160 million grant to US organizations to campaign against youth vaping.

The pivot away from tobacco to focus on vaping, especially the “youth vaping crisis,” is as much about the money as it is the numbers.

According to the CDC, the current U.S. smoking rate is just 12.5%, down from over 20% not more than a decade ago. Nicotine alternatives like vaping devices, snus, and pouches have played a large role in this, as have broader cultural taboos on smoking.

And while the justification for restricting vape devices is because of youth use, the CDC’s own data shows that less than 0.6% of high schoolers used a Juul device more than once a month, down considerably over just two years. That downtrend trend is consistent among all vape products.

The confusion comes with how the data is tabulated, showing the percentage breakdown of high schoolers who vape and the products they use, often leading politicians and campaigners with the impression that far greater young people try vaping than they do. And this does not include those who vape cannabis products, which in former surveys showed higher numbers than nicotine vaping.

Regardless of those facts, vaping is in the crosshairs.

Despite the millions spent, there is no admission that responsible adults use these products in far greater numbers, and have positive health outcomes as a result.

This latter point has, thankfully, been taken up by a select group of tobacco researchers who understand the continuum of risk and laud vaping’s potential for getting smokers to quit, including Cliff Douglas, director of the University of Michigan Tobacco Research Network and the former vice president for tobacco control at the American Cancer Society.

Were this a rational and science-based conversation and regulatory process, those positive health outcomes would be a no-brainer. Unfortunately, as we have seen with the global war against vaping products, this is more an ideological battle than a mission of pure health.

The FDA has been all too willing to play this game in the court of politics, and they should be condemned for doing so.

Yaël Ossowski is a Canadian-American writer and deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

er Zürcher HB ist der beste Bahnhof Europas

Ein Verbraucherverband hat Europas Bahnhöfe auf deren Passagierfreundlichkeit untersucht. Der Hauptbahnhof Zürich führt die Liste an.

Der US-amerikanische Verbraucherverband Consumer Choice Center nahm für seinen jährlichen «European Railway Station Index» die 50 grössten Bahnhöfe Europas unter die Lupe . Im neu veröffentlichten Schlussbericht hat sich der Hauptbahnhof Zürich mit 93 von 108 möglichen Punkten den Spitzenplatz geschnappt – knapp vor den Hauptbahnhöfen in Frankfurt, München oder Berlin.

Bewertet wurde unter anderem, wie zugänglich der Bahnhof für Reisende im Rollstuhl, für Geh- oder Sehbehinderte ist, ob gratis Wifi angeboten wird und wie gross  das Essens- und Shoppingangebot vor Ort ist. Der Bahnhof Bern, der als einziger weiterer Schweizer Bahnhof für die Liste evaluiert wurde, liegt mit 67,2 Punkten auf Platz 27. 

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The Truth About Organic Farming

Does shopping at upscale grocery stores make you a better consumer? Hardly. In fact, contrary to what you may already believe, organic food is not only less efficient and thus more expensive. It is also worse for the environment.

A study by the University of Melbourne in Australia shows that organic farming yields 43 percent to 72 percent less than conventional methods — and that achieving the same output requires 130 percent more farmland. For those skeptical about the results of just one study, you can find more of them hereherehere or here. The last-mentioned study underlines the point that “if all U.S. wheat production were grown organically, an additional (30.6 million acres) would be needed to match 2014 production levels.”

Organic food needs more resources than conventional farming. The effects on biodiversity are severe: insects and pollinators can access fewer natural reserves with organic agriculture. On top of that, under a 100 percent adoption scenario of organic farming, carbon-dioxide emissions would increase by up to a whopping 70 percent, as researchers in the United Kingdom have shown.

So why do some people in the United States continue to buy organic food at sometimes double the price of conventional food? One on hand, it’s performative. Shopping at sizeable organic food shops is popular and presumably the sort of thing you’re supposed to do once you have a comfortable salary in a large city. On the other hand, some consumers are misled about the alleged benefits of organic farming. Organic food is thought to be healthier (it isn’t) and to not use pesticides (it does).

Organic farming has become a talking point, more than just a beneficial placebo effect for upper-class city-dwellers. It is also political. “Democrats will invest in research and development to support climate-resilient, sustainable, low-carbon and organic agricultural methods,” the 2020 Democratic Party platform says. Yet the Democrats are doing more than just subsidization — environmentalists are undermining the catalog of pesticides available to farmers by arguing that they are dangerous. In fact, painting pesticides that have been safely used in American agriculture since the 1960s as “bee-killing” or “toxic” has been a frequent trope of activists who bemoan everything from “factory farming” to the availability of meat.

Sen. Cory Booker is happy to play a part in a New York Times opinion video in which he says “we are past the national emergency,” tying climate change with the American food system. Booker, whose home state of New Jersey produces a whopping … 0.35 percent of all the food in the United States, probably misrepresents the reality of American farming. In fact, agricultural intensification has led to peak agricultural land being reached, meaning that we make more food with less land overall, which allows our ecosystem to regrow over time. That means more forests and flowers for the aerial shots of political campaign videos.

The representation of the American food system as toxic and evil can only go so far before it becomes either comical or sad. Neither of them is a good look.

Originally published here

CCC Mulls Alternatives to Menthol Ban

The Consumer Choice Center, a consumer advocacy group based in Washington D.C., hosted a “Menthol Melee,” proposing alternatives to the Food and Drug Administration’s pending bans on flavored cigars and menthol cigarettes.

The event featured Gwen Carr, the mother of Eric Garner, who died at the hands of police over untaxed cigarettes, as well as nearly a dozen current and former law enforcement officers who believe the proposed policy will erode community trust in places where officers patrol the streets.

“We are hosting the Menthol Melee to hear from various community activists, law enforcement officers, and research experts who understand far too well how ill-fated a ban on these flavored tobacco products would be,” said Yaël Ossowski, deputy director at the Consumer Choice Center.

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Why Targeted Ads Are a Blessing

You are reading this column online, and much like most of the news, entertainment and communication you’ll consume today, you’ll need your phone, tablet or computer to do it.

Terrestrial TV, print newspapers, radios and physical letters are still in business, but we’ve come a long way since the days in which a house had one computer with internet access. The New York Times, not exactly the most prominent defender of modern capitalism, generated more revenue online than it did with its print edition in 2020.

Advertising has changed with the media consumption of consumers. Targeted advertising makes it a lot easier for companies to precisely identify the key demographic they’re trying to reach.

Gone are the days in which childless people sit through diaper commercials, or an elderly audience is bombarded with the deals for the latest video games.

For commercial reasons, targeted advertising has been the logical evolution, even though it in no sense reinvented the wheel: even prior to the internet, companies wouldn’t advertise surfing gear in Vermont or ski equipment in Florida.

That said, isn’t modern advertising achieving the famous adage of buying things we don’t need for people we don’t like with money we don’t have? Let me express an energetic ‘meh’ towards that assumption.

In fact, I believe that targeted advertising achieves the opposite: by fine-tuning the ads we see to the things we are actually interested in — conjointly with the availability of platforms that compare prices and quality — we are less likely to be bombarded with goods we might buy but don’t want.

That’s exactly what social media ads do, and it’s the reason why small business owners and marketers use these platforms: to reach the people who have particular interests.

Incidentally, even the enemies of advertising rely on the age of commercialization. Former administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs under the Obama administration, Cass Sunstein, author of the essay “Fifty Shades of Manipulation,” in which he labels marketing as manipulation, benefits from smart algorithms.

How else could I explain that Amazon has, for weeks, been trying to recommend me to purchase his books after viewing a couple of his publications?

Of course, Sunstein doesn’t mind nudging consumers when it comes to public policy — in fact, he operates under the assumption that consumers don’t know what’s best for them and that an array of government nudges will push them in the “right” direction. As always, the government doesn’t mind the tool; it just dislikes competition.

One thing remains apparent: Consumers buy only what they really want. Yes, while it’s plausible that we all buy the occasional superfluous gadget, it is also true that no commercial in the world could convince consumers to switch their light bulbs for candles.

Good products and services win in the end, and targeted advertising levels the playing field by allowing small startups to get their foot in the door through advertising that is more precise and cheaper than ever before.

From both the user and the commercial perspective, targeted advertising is actually a blessing.

Originally published here

Michigan law makes fight for municipal broadband an uphill battle

For more than a decade, municipalities around the United States have been starting their own government-run broadband networks to bring high-speed internet to their residents. 

They might do so for a variety of reasons: to provide residents faster service at a lower cost, to encourage economic development, to provide high-speed internet to areas that private Internet Service Providers aren’t interested in serving, or to bring more economical connections to urban areas where residents can’t afford the service provided by private ISPs.

But due to laws on the books in Michigan, cities can face significant obstacles in starting their own network.

Michigan is one of 18 states that put restrictions on municipal broadband programs. Under the Metropolitan Extension Telecommunications Rights-of-Way Oversight Act of 2002, public entities can provide telecommunications services only if they have first requested bids for the services and received fewer than three qualified bids. They also must subject themselves to the same terms as those specified in their Request for Proposal.

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Taxing vaping promotes smoking. So why is Ottawa doing that?

Heavy-handed vaping regulations and taxation do nothing but create more smokers

Health Canada announced last week that warning labels will now be required on each and every cigarette in a pack. That global first is part of Canada’s goal to have fewer than five per cent of Canadians smoke by 2035. It’s hard to tell what effect similar measures have had in the past but for whatever reasons tobacco use in Canada has been on a significant decline over the last 15 years. In 2007, 31 per cent of Canadians identified as regular smokers. By 2020, that number was down to just 11 per cent. That’s certainly good news. We all know the devastating impact smoking can have. Approximately 48,000 Canadians die each year from tobacco-related illnesses.

But while the decline in smoking is cause for celebration, new vaping regulations from Ottawa could actually run counter to Health Canada’s smoke-free 2035 goal by pushing some former smokers back to smoking.

Vaping, which is nicotine consumption without the combustion of cigarettes, is dramatically less harmful than smoking, and is therefore widely considered a useful harm reduction tool for smokers trying to quit. A 2017 study from researchers at the University of California found that U.S. census data showed vaping had contributed to a significant increase in smoking cessation. It therefore recommended positive public health communications supporting vaping. That’s the approach being taken in England, with positive results. After Public Health England deemed vaping 95 per cent less harmful than smoking, the U.K. Office of Health decided to promote vaping to adult smokers as part of the country’s own plan to be smoke-free by 2035. It has even created a “swap to stop” program in which smokers can trade in their cigarettes for free vaping devices.

Unfortunately, Canada’s approach to vaping does not embrace harm reduction in the same way the U.K.’s does. Where narcotics and other drugs are concerned, harm reduction is the order of the day in Ottawa. But when it comes to tobacco products, for some reason eradication is still the goal. Thus Ottawa has already sought to ban all vape flavours except tobacco and mint/menthol — even though nearly half of Canadian vapers use flavours as their preferred method to leaving smoking behind, and for good reason. A nationally representative longitudinal study of over 17,000 Americans showed that adults who used flavoured vaping products were 2.3 times more likely to quit smoking when compared to vapers who consumed tobacco-flavoured vaping products. Why is not hard to understand. If you are trying to quit tobacco, being limited to vaping products that taste like tobacco isn’t very helpful.

But Ottawa isn’t just targeting vape flavours. Now it’s also scaling up taxation. The new tax it proposed in April’s budget would add $7 to the price of a 30mL bottle of vape liquid, $10 for a 60 mL bottle, and $14 for a 100 mL bottle. For those who vape with cartridge devices, a four-pack of one-millilitre cartridges, which usually retails for between $24-$26, would have an extra $4 tacked on.

What will be the effect of these tax hikes?

Vape prices are very likely to rise. A 2020 working paper published by the National Bureau of Economic Research that analyzed data from 35,000 U.S. retailers found that for every dollar increase in taxation vape prices rose between $0.91 and $1.16, meaning that the tax is almost entirely passed on to consumers. For a four-pack of one-millilitre cartridges, prices can be expected to increase between $3.64-$4.64.

And how will vapers respond to these price hikes? Many will go back to smoking. That same NBER study showed that a $1 increase in vape taxes increased cigarette sales by fully 10 per cent.

From a public health perspective this is exactly the wrong approach. We know that vaping is a very useful harm reduction tool. Targeting vaping with flavour bans and high taxation will certainly discourage people from vaping but it will also encourage some former smokers to go back to cigarettes and keep some current smokers from switching to vaping. If Canada wants to have any shot at achieving its smoke-free 2035 goal, we should follow the U.K.’s lead and incorporate vaping as a means to that end. Heavy-handed vaping regulations and taxation do nothing but create more smokers, and no one wins if that happens.

Originally published here


L’Union européenne semble avoir choisi de déformer la réalité de notre crise alimentaire. Comme ce ne serait pas un problème, elle fait même tout son possible pour l’aggraver…

Des commissaires qui prétendent que nous avons une récolte record et que la situation est non seulement bien, mais excellente… cela nous fait indéniablement penser à La Ferme des animaux de George Orwell.

Curieusement, nos dirigeants politiques n’augmentent même pas la production, tout en prétendant qu’il n’y a pas de crise alimentaire. Le commissaire européen à l’environnement, Virginijus Sinkevičius, a récemment déclaré à la presse que l’augmentation de la production alimentaire en Europe n’était qu’une simple « solution à court terme pour réagir à la crise ».

Alors que la Russie attaque les silos à grains ukrainiens et bloque les navires pour l’exportation, les prix mondiaux des céréales sont en hausse. En outre, la guerre entre la Russie et l’Ukraine affecte tous les produits, des huiles au miel, en passant par les engrais et les aliments pour animaux. Il en résulte une inflation des prix alimentaires qui, même selon les chiffres officiels (et nous savons à quel point les Etats savent les minimiser), dépasse les 8%.

De 3 à 25% d’inflation…

La France connaît heureusement une inflation des prix alimentaires relativement faible, de seulement 3%, parce qu’elle applique des politiques qui l’ont maintenue historiquement autonome ; mais des pays comme l’Allemagne (11%), l’Autriche (8,5%) ou les Pays-Bas (9%) n’ont pas la même configuration.

En Europe centrale et orientale, la situation est pire : étant donné qu’un grand nombre de leurs systèmes alimentaires se sont spécialisés dans des cultures spécifiques (généralement celles qui rapportent le plus de subventions aux agriculteurs), ces pays ne sont pas préparés à affronter cette tempête et se retrouvent avec des taux d’inflation de 12% en Pologne, 15%  en Roumanie, 19,5% en Hongrie et même 25% en Lituanie.

Le blocus céréalier provoqué par la Russie frappe les pays en développement encore plus durement que l’Europe continentale. L’Afrique du Nord et le Moyen-Orient sont lourdement touchés par l’absence de céréales ukrainiennes importées. L’Europe pourrait, si elle le voulait, augmenter ses propres niveaux de production et s’assurer d’aider ces pays dans le besoin avec nos exportations (tout en soulageant nos propres besoins alimentaires), et ainsi éviter que d’autres pays, comme la Chine et la Russie, renforcent leurs liens diplomatiques avec ces nations.

Non seulement la Commission européenne ne semble pas croire qu’il s’agit d’un problème, mais elle fait tout son possible pour l’aggraver. Sa stratégie « Farm to Fork » vise à réduire de 10% les terres agricoles en Europe au cours des prochaines années. Un objectif étrange, puisque les recherches montrent que les modèles comparatifs indiquent que le pic d’utilisation des terres agricoles a déjà été atteint. Cela signifie que, malgré une population croissante, l’humanité ne devrait plus augmenter ses besoins en terres à des fins agricoles.

Encore plus de dépendance

Même si c’est le cas, la production alimentaire continue de croître car les techniques agricoles modernes nous permettent de créer plus de rendement avec la même quantité, ou même un peu moins de terres. Une chute plus soudaine et significative de 10% plongerait en revanche notre système alimentaire dans un désarroi inutile, et compliquerait encore davantage nos relations avec la Russie et notre dépendance à son égard. Notre modèle agricole est une ligne délicate de l’offre et de la demande, et l’altérer comporte des risques énormes.

En outre, la Commission européenne prévoit également de réduire l’utilisation des pesticides par le biais de la directive sur l’utilisation durable des pesticides (SUD). Réduire de moitié l’utilisation des pesticides d’ici 2030, voilà qui n’est pas du goût de certains : dix pays de l’UE se sont plaints de la manière dont la Commission calcule l’objectif de réduction des pesticides. Un calcul qui sera injuste, étant donné la grande variation de l’utilisation par hectare entre les agriculteurs des différents pays de l’UE.

La Commission européenne tarde également à autoriser les nouvelles technologies d’édition de gènes pour la production alimentaire. En Angleterre, où une législation est désormais sur la table pour rendre disponible cette technologie éprouvée (déjà utilisée en Israël, aux Etats-Unis et au Canada), le gouvernement a clairement fait savoir qu’elle pouvait lutter contre l’insécurité alimentaire.

Cependant, malgré la volonté d’Emmanuel Macron de s’engager dans cette voie, l’Allemagne continue de bloquer. La ministre allemande de l’Environnement, Steffi Lemke, a en effet rejeté le projet de la Commission européenne consistant à proposer de nouvelles règles pour les cultures produites à l’aide de nouvelles techniques génomiques, telles que CRISPR-Cas9, affirmant que ce n’était pas nécessaire, affirmant même qu’elle « ne voi[t] pas la nécessité d’une nouvelle réglementation ».

Le problème des normes

L’Union européenne veut le beurre et l’argent du beurre. Elle veut à la fois prétendre que les normes alimentaires en Europe sont les plus élevées qui soient, et que ces normes alimentaires (non viables) produisent des aliments disponibles et bon marché.

Malheureusement pour la Commission, pour que cela soit vrai dans un communiqué de presse, il faut qu’elle déforme l’un des deux facteurs, et il semble qu’elle ait choisi de déformer la réalité de notre crise alimentaire.

Elle suit les recommandations d’activistes environnementaux délirants, qui préféreraient que nous revenions à une version nostalgique de « l’agriculture paysanne », qui est à la fois horriblement inefficace et malsaine pour l’environnement et les consommateurs.

En fait, l’agriculture biologique qu’ils aiment tant a besoin de plus de terres agricoles pour produire la même quantité de nourriture. Donc, en substance, réduire les terres agricoles tout en passant à l’alimentation bio signifie une chose : nous recevons tous moins à manger, même si nous dépensons plus.

Donner aux gens moins à manger en temps de crise ? Il est assez simple de prévoir comment cela se terminera.

Originally published here

Pentingnya Regulasi Berbeda antara Rokok dan Produk Tembakau Alternatif

Konsumsi rokok elektrik saat ini merupakan salah satu fenomena yang sangat umum dan semakin meningkat seiring berjalannya waktu. Bagi kita yang tinggal di wilayah urban, dengan mudah bisa menemukan tidak sedikit orang yang mengkonsumsi rokok elektrik, dan juga berbagai produk vape dan rokok elektrik yang dijual di berbagai toko dan pusat perbelanjaan.

Fenomena semakin meningkatnya konsumsi vape ini juga menarik perhatian banyak pihak. Bagi sebagian pihak, fenomena ini merupakan sesuatu yang negatif, karena vape atau produk tembakau alternatif lainnya dianggap sebagai produk yang sama berbahayanya, atau bahkan lebih berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar.

Oleh karena itu, bagi sebagian kalangan, kebijakan pelarangan atau setidaknya pembatasan ketat bagi produk-produk alternatif tembakau seperti rokok elektrik merupakan sesuatu yang tepat untuk dilakukan. Hal in idikarenakan, produk-produk tembakau alternatif seperti rokok elektrik dianggap sebagai salah satu ancaman besar bagi kesehatan publik.

Sementara itu, pihak lainnya memiliki pandangan yang cukup positif, atau setidaknya optimis, melihat fenomena tersebut. Hal ini dikarenakan bahwa, berdasarkan berbagai laporan penelitian, diketahui bahwa rokok elektrik atau vape merupakan produk yang jauh lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar.

Dengan semakin meningkatnya pengguna vape atau rokok elektrik, maka diharapkan pengguna rokok konvensional yang dibakar juga akan semakin berkurang. Dengan demikian, berbagai penyakit kronis berbahaya yang disebabkan karena penggunaan rokok konvensional yang dibakar dapat dimitigasi. Dengan demikian, langkah untuk melarang atau membatasi rokok elektrik merupakan kebijakan yang kontraproduktif, karena hal tersebut akan semakin mempersulit para konsumen untuk mendapatkan akses terhadap produk alternatif dari rokok konvensional yang lebih tidak berbahaya.

Informasi mengenai bahwa produk tembakau alternatif jauh lebih tidak berbahaya bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar merupakan hal yang sudah diketahui sejak beberapa tahun lalu. Salah satu lembaga kesehatan yang mengeluarkan laporan mengenai hal tersebut adalah lembaga kesehatan publik Inggris, Public Health England (PHE), pada tahun 2015 lalu (theguardian.com, 28/12/2018).

Laporan tersebut tentu merupakan laporan yang sangat penting untuk diperhatikan, terutama bila kita ingin menyusun regulasi yang tepat terkait dengan produk-produk tembakau alternatif seperti rokok elektrik. Salah satunya adalah, bagaimana kita dapat memanfaatkan produk-produk tembakau alternatif seperti rokok elektrik, untuk membantu para perokok untuk mengurangi hingga berhenti secara total menggunakan rokok konvensional yang dibakar, yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan.

Salah satu langkah awal untuk menyusun regulasi yang tepat tersebut adalah dengan tidak menyetarakan antara produk-produk rokok konvensional yang dibakar dengan produk-produk tembakau alternatif seperti rokok elektrik. Hal ini tentu merupakan sesuatu yang penting mengingat dampak negatif dari produk tembakau alternatif jauh lebih kecil bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar.

Menjadikan vape atau rokok elektrik sebagai alat untuk membantu perokok menghentikan kebiasaan merokoknya merupakan hal yang sudah dilakukan oleh jutaan orang di seluruh dunia, teramsuk juga tentunya di Indonesia. Berdasarkan riset yang dilakukan oleh Universitas Trisakti misalnya, menunjukkan bahwa setidaknya ada 30% responden yang menyatakan bahwa mereka menggunakan produk-produk vape alternatif sebagai sarana untuk berhenti merekok (vapemagz.co.id, 20/05/2022).

Sementara itu, 11% responden lainnya menyatakan bahwa mereka menggunakan vape untuk alasan kesehatan, dan 9% lainnya menggunakan produk-produk tembakau alternatif atas anjuran dari ahli kesehatan. Oleh karena itu, setidaknya 80% dari seluruh responden menyatakan bahwa promosi tembakau alternatif harus lebih dimasifkan sebagai salah satu upaya untuk berhenti merokok (vapemagz.co.id, 20/05/2022).

Dengan adanya regulasi yang berbeda, diharapkan hal tersebut uga akan semakin merangsang para pelaku industri, khususnya industri dengan skala kecil dan menengah, untuk masuk ke dalam sektor produk-produk tembakau alternatif. Hal ini juga berarti tidak hanya semakin membantu konsumen untuk menyediakan sarana untuk mereka agar berhenti merokok, namun juga akan berpotensi membuka dan menyerap semakin banyak tenaga kerja.

Selain itu, tidak hanya regulasi yang berbeda, dibutuhkan juga upaya untuk meningkatkan berbagai riset dan penelitian terkait dengan rokok elektrik dan juga produk-produk tembakau alternatif lainnya. Penelitian dan riset ini merupakan sesuatu yang sangat penting, sebagai landasan untuk menyusun kebijakan dan regulasi yang tepat. Saat ini, berbagai riset dan penelitian terkait dengan produk-produk vape alternatif dilakukan oleh lembaga-lembaga dari luar negeri (financial.detik.com, 22/05/2022).

Sebagai penutup, penyusunan kebijakan vape dan juga produk-produk tembakau alternatif lainnya yang tepat, dan juga peningkatan riset dan penelitian terkait denga produk-produk tersebut, merupakan hal yang sangat penting. Hal ini sangat penting mengingat Indonesia merupakan salah satu negara dengan populasi perokok tertinggi di dunia, dan produk-produk tembakau alternatif dapat digunakan sebagai salah satu alat untuk membantu para perokok menghentikan kebiasaannya yang sangat berbahaya.

Originally published here

TRIPS: Developing countries will not benefit from IP waived vaccines

Waiving TRIPS will not tackle vaccine hesitancy in the developing world but instead disrupt global innovation

Currently a historic World Trade Organisation (WTO) meeting is taking place in Geneva, Switzerland, to discuss the waiving of patents on COVID-19 vaccines. Speaking at the opening of the first WTO summit in five years, Director-General  (DG) Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala expressed “cautious optimism” about the outcomes, as reported in The Japan Times.

Since her election in 2021, WTO DG Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala has been vocal about the need to boost coronavirus vaccine accessibility in developing countries. The DG welcomed the original Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) flexibility proposal from South Africa and India, stressing the urgency of striking a deal. 

It looks like the willingness to pass some type of deal on patent waving is prevailing over common sense

Now, we might be hours away from an agreement that will affect our chances to improve the world through innovation forever. The EU’s original opposition to the deal was undermined, when in November 2021 the European Parliament voted in favour of granting the TRIPS waiver. US President Biden eventually followed giving the waiver a green light. 

It looks like the willingness to pass some sort of deal on patent waving is prevailing over common sense. Dismantling Intellectual Property (IP) rights will not tackle vaccine hesitancy in the developing world but instead only disrupt innovation globally.

TRIPS waiver would allow governments to override global IP rules in the case of emergencies, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. In practice, this would mean waiving patents to produce coronavirus vaccines, protective equipment, and medical devices, so letting companies produce vaccines without the agreement of the patent owner. 

By supporting the TRIPS waiver, Western governments demonstrate yet again how short-term their memory is. Hesitancy over COVID-19 vaccines has been booming in Europe and the US. In Austria, for example, only 46.2% of people trusted the government toprovide safe vaccines a recent study found. Safety concerns combined with low trust in government, and demonisation of the pharma industry underlie vaccine hesitancy. 

All of the said issues are significant in and of themselves. But it is particularly striking that TRIPS advocates in the West disregard them in the context of vaccine distribution in developing countries. A 2021 survey in Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam, found that roughly half of people were hesitant to take COVID-19 vaccines. In Africa, despite the supply of vaccines, the hesitancy also remains high, according to Professor Yap Boum, representative of Epicentre, the research arm of Doctors Without Borders. 

The TRIPS waiver would simply remove every incentive for innovators to solve the world’s most pressing problems

Advocates of TRIPS waiver fail to explain the vaccine hesitancy aspect of low vaccine uptake in developing countries. If people in developing countries do not want to take vaccines, produced by pharmaceutical companies, with a good safety track record, what makes TRIPS proponents think they would take vaccines produced by third-party suppliers?

Without patents, third-party suppliers will make vaccine shots based on patented formulas and processes. As a result, the risk of producing bad, inactive vaccines that will undermine vaccination in general is extremely high. It could throw the global vaccination efforts under the bus.

If passed, the TRIPS waiver deal will slowly but surely destroy the future of innovation. Intellectual property rights to ensure that companies can continue to innovate and deliver on their products to consumers. Pharmaceutical research takes a staggering amount of time, effort and investment so it is natural that they expect some repayments. The TRIPS waiver would simply remove every incentive for innovators to solve the world’s most pressing problems. And we have quite a few!

As societies, we made unparalleled progress in the pharmaceutical field. We’re on the brink of fighting rectal cancer, and it won’t take too long before anti-ageing drugs become widely available. But if TRIPS advocates succeed, these and many other opportunities will be lost forever. Trading the future of the planet and next generations for a few million unsafe vaccines, which people in developing countries might refuse to take, doesn’t seem like a fair calculus.

Originally published here

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