Can we please have a debate about policy issues?

Trying to talk policy with confused Le Monde activist journalists

Have you ever attempted to argue with a conspiracy theorist? 

They don’t all wear tinfoil hats and argue about vaccines or government plots. Some earn paychecks from respectable media outlets. Others are funded by billionaire philanthropists to sow doubt and spin narratives.

The Consumer Choice Center recently met with some Michael Bloomberg-funded journalists — a troubling web on its own — supposedly to discuss our campaigns on tobacco harm reduction, an important issue for us and for a billion smokers worldwide. Yesterday they published their “research” after months of inquiry.

We wanted to talk to them about policy issues. But they seemingly weren’t interested in the great work we do on consumer choice and innovative, smart policies across the globe. They did not care about our fight to save the lives of millions of smokers, or our efforts to make ride-sharing available for everyone and reduce drunk driving, or combatting criminals and drug-dealers by endorsing cannabis legalization. We advocate for innovative solutions to tackle the world’s problems — from hunger to pandemics — but they had a different narrative to sell.

Cynical activist-journalists don’t seem to care about the life-saving potential of vaping but instead aim to slander people that endorse and use it. Where is the alternative solution provided by these intrepid journalists? They also don’t care about us and our volunteers being actual consumers — this makes me look forward to displaying hundreds of video testimonials of vapers in the upcoming weeks across Europe. Nearly 70 million smokers (that’s 1% of world population and about 200-times more people than Le Monde readers) have been able to quit thanks to vaping. This is likely the largest public health victory since the invention of the Polio vaccine! 

Instead, the big story they wanted to target is that the CCC receives money from for-profit corporations. This is true, and it shouldn’t be a surprise. It’s clearly stated on our website, and we’ve answered these questions a hundred times. If it takes three “journalists” months to figure this out, then Michael Bloomberg and those who run his foundation, who funded their research, should probably consider the return on their investment. 

Despite their ambiguous claims, CCC has ZERO ties to the Koch family, their companies, or their money, and though this was made very clear to the intrepid reporters, they devoted the vast majority of their screed to trying to force a link that doesn’t exist. This is neither honest journalism nor fact-based reporting, but it fits the illiberal and moralizing worldview of a sect of journalists, and their contrived sense of right and wrong. 

They believe that fighting for consumer choice and evidence-based policies is a fringe pursuit and lonely endeavor, which no one would dare try unless funded by various incarnations of the devil. We disagree. 

I devoted more than an hour to talking with these journalists in person, and provided responses to all of their follow-up questions, in good faith. The same can be said for my colleagues who provided answers to them in the months prior. Their suggestion that I was evasive just doesn’t match the facts. We are open and proud of the work that we do. 

There’s a massive need to raise and amplify the voice of consumers that want access to innovative products, that want to decide for themselves, and that don’t want to be lectured to by activist-journalists with an ideological axe to grind. 

The Consumer Choice Center is proud of its accomplishments in our years of existence, and that my colleagues and our volunteers work hard hours every day to bring evidence and consumer choice to the public debate. I am very thankful for all the support we have received in the past and we look forward to growing our efforts for 21st century consumer policies! 

P.S.: The story that consumers and ex-smokers (like me) fight for the right to vape seemed to be such a non-story that the writers decided it was appropriate to comment on the fashion choices of myself and Michael. When they go low, we’ll go high, so we won’t respond in kind. But I would like to say that I proudly bought my Burberry trench coat in a second hand market. But this wouldn’t fit their narrative. 

P.P.S.: All I want for Christmas is for Michael Bloomberg and the World Health Organization to realize that vaping can save millions of lives. Santa, can you help with this?

P.P.P.S: If you want to read through the result of the aforementioned 3-month-long research you can have some entertainment here.

Addition: This thread by Michelle Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute shows the undeclared conflicts of interest of some of the authors of the references ‘research’.

Leaked: Bloomberg-funded ‘Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids’ Global Strategy to Ban Vaping Products By Bribing Public Bodies

To people in the United States, billionaire Michael Bloomberg is most well-known as a swashbuckling former New York City mayor who blew a lot of money on an ill-fated presidential primary run.

But around the world, his network of charities and selected groups he provides with millions of dollars in grants are, for all intents and purposes, a sort of private government who influence government leaders, fund the entire salaries of public health officials, and write legislation that is then introduced into legislative bodies, including the recent example of vaping bans in Mexico and the Phillippines.

Some of these organizations are those directly chaired and controlled by Bloomberg, including Bloomberg Philanthropies, but most are various campaign groups that rely heavily on funding and guidance from the New York City billionaire, including those focused on the environment, education, public health, and general tobacco control.

According to the latest article from Michelle Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, who was able to get her hands on internal documents from the Bloomberg-funded Campaign For Tobacco-Free Kids organization, the pernicious impact of the campaigns to target developing countries goes much beyond standard tobacco-control measures such as taxes, age-gating, and advertising restrictions.

Influence and Cash-Strapped Governments

Instead, there are direct payments offered to government bodies and public health officials that implement the CTFK wish-list of legislation. Because developing nations spend less on public health measures and programs than developed nations, foreign NGOs that seek specific policy measures in exchange for millions of dollars in public funding are granted immense influence.

As such, rather than actual domestic democratic demand for measures against tobacco and vaping products, including all-out bans on vaping flavors and technology, these nations pass laws in direct exchange for grants, often much larger than their own domestic department budgets. In other contexts, this would rightly be defined as bribery.

Considering Michael Bloomberg’s charities have spent nearly $700 million globally to hurry these measures into law, the long arm of the global anti-tobacco advocacy movement has already chalked up several success stories.

In government, CTFK and its partners engage in lobbying, like most other advocacy organizations, but CTFK’s strategy for influencing tobacco policy really hinges on establishing itself as an indispensable resource for regulators and lawmakers. For example, the CTFK plan lists myriad examples of support it has provided to government entities, such as assisting in lawsuits against the tobacco industry in Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, and Kenya. In Panama, it notes “collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Panama who is interested in financing a regional effort” for tobacco litigation.

Michelle Minton, Exposed: Bloomberg’s Anti-Tobacco Meddling in Developing Countries

The documents outline the efforts of campaigners from CTFK to pass various tobacco control and anti-vaping measures in countries such as Brazil, China, and Nigeria, including “financial support” to ministries and government offices.

More than just government officials and health bodies, exorbitant funding is also made available to universities and media institutions, documents show, to amplify the core messages and aims of CTFK.

The Smokescreen

Rather than advocating for general tobacco control measures, a good portion of CTFK’s campaigns has focused on banning or severely restrict harm reducing technologies such as vaping, especially in developing countries such as India, the Phillippines, China, Brazil, Peru, Uruguay, Uganda, Nigeria, Kenya, and more.

Diverting from their mission of truly “tobacco-free kids,” Bloomberg’s connected organizations have instead used their influence to zero in on innovative and novel technological vaping products that deliver aerosolized nicotine and have nothing to do with tobacco.

Instead, organizations like Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids have used powerful rhetoric on the need to eliminate smoking as a literal smokescreen for eliminating or severely restricting all non-combustible nicotine alternatives, including vaping devices, heat-not-burn devices, nicotine pouches, and more.

Considering the demonstrated health potentials that come with endorsing nicotine-delivery alternatives as a means to quit smoking, as is recommended by relative health ministries in the United Kingdom and New Zealand, the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to undermine these efforts in developing countries with relatively high smoking rates should be a scandal of epic proportions.

But, alas, those headlines are far from prominent. Instead, we have multiple policy victories that restrict consumer choice and access to alternatives without much regard for actual public health.

Achieving True Public Health

What makes these revelations most startling is that there is no room for nuance on whether innovative new vaping devices and other alternatives, which do not contain tobacco, should be considered tobacco products. Organizations such as the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, an organ of the World Health Organization, say they are no different.

But they’re wrong. The growing compendium of academic studies and government reports demonstrating that vaping is 95% less harmful than combustible tobacco speaks to that.

The fact that millions of people have been able to quit smoking by using nicotine vaping devices should be a testament enough to how the market can deliver solutions for public health, not to use a cudgel to hamstring and deny developing nations the real opportunity they have to improve and save the lives of millions of their citizens.

But as noted by Minton at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, “the strategy of CTFK and the wider Bloomberg-funded anti-tobacco effort appears aimed at winning policy battles and passing laws with little consideration of whether they result in actual reductions in smoking or improvements in health.”

If this is the face of the modern tobacco control movement, then we know that public health is not actually their goal.

36 Organizations Sign Coalition Letter Condemning Menthol Prohibition Proposal

Earlier today, Americans for Tax Reform released a letter signed by 36 leading national and state-based organizations representing millions of taxpayers and consumers throughout the United States urging the Food and Drug Administration to reject a proposed ban on menthol cigarettes. This letter adds to a similar letter signed by 27 civil liberty and racial justice organizations organized by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and demonstrates overwhelming bipartisan opposition to this proposal.  

The letter noted the devastating social impact of criminalizing an activity undertaken by over 18 million Americans, primarily from minority communities, asserting “If this proposal were to be enacted, it is inevitable that it would lead to further confrontations between individuals and law enforcement and break down trust even further. In addition, by diverting law enforcement resources to preventing the sale of menthol cigarettes, this policy will reduce the resources available for the prevention and solving of property and violent crimes.” 

The letter continued, “We further draw your attention to the fact that any comprehensive analysis of the data from jurisdictions where menthol products have been banned demonstrates that, while the majority of users switch to non-menthol cigarettes, over 20% of menthol smokers moved to purchasing illicit products through the black market. Not only does this put all parties involved at risk of police involvement, the illicit tobacco market is increasingly been run by sophisticated international criminal syndicates, often with links to sex trafficking, money laundering and even, increasingly, terrorism.” 

For these reasons, as the letter noted, the U.S. State Department has explicitly called tobacco smuggling, “a threat to national security”. 

The letter also recognized the importance of promoting harm reduction over prohibition, writing, “If the FDA wishes to reduce smoking rates, the best way of doing this is not through bans, but rather embracing life-saving new technologies to help smokers quit. The science is now overwhelming that the most effective way for smokers to quit is through the use of non-combustible reduced risk tobacco alternatives, ranging from vapor and “heat not burn” devices, to oral nicotine delivery systems or moist loose tobacco (which the FDA already allows to be marketed as reducing the cancer risk for persons who make the switch).” 

The letter concluded by urging the FDA to “engage in evidence-based policy making and embrace new technologies and alternative nicotine delivery systems that have been proven will be able to save millions of American lives.” 

Originally published here.

Planet of the Vapes: Vaping is the gateway out of smoking

The Parliament Magazine is issued on a fortnightly basis to inform and educate politicians with “with balanced, objective and informative coverage”. The latest issue carries an article by Consumer Choice Center’s Maria Chaplia and World Vapers’ Alliance’s Michael Landl saying that “Vaping is the gateway out of smoking”.

The World Vapers’ Alliance has been exceptionally active lately, from attacking the SCHEER Report [link] and demonstrating at the European Parliament [link] to organising a spectacular protest in the Netherlands [link].

The Consumer Choice Center says it, “is the consumer advocacy group supporting lifestyle freedom, innovation, privacy, science, and consumer choice. The main policy areas we focus on are digital, mobility, lifestyle & consumer goods, and health & science.”

The Parliament Magazine and its sister publications highlight, “innovation and best practice across key regional policy sectors, as well as providing up to date news and analysis of regional policy legislation and developments at EU, national and regional levels.”

In the latest edition Chaplia and Landl say: “The innovative nature of vaping has contributed to its success and allowed it to quickly gain popularity among smokers.”

They argue that despite the novel technology being targeted by opponents as a gateway into smoking the truth is the opposite, and the longer the EU continues to attack harm reduction, “the fewer smokers get a chance to switch to a safer and healthier alternative.”

The newest Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK report states that “only 0.3 percent of never-smokers are current vapers (amounting to 2.9 percent of vapers)”. Therefore, a gateway effect to smoking is not reflected in the data and many studies show the opposite effect. For example, smoking rates in the UK – where public health authorities encourage vaping as a gateway out of smoking – are at an all-time low and there is no sign of vaping causing more smoking.”

They address the fact that countries which have embraced harm reduction, such as the UK, have seen accelerated declines in smoking rates, whereas countries like Australia have witnessed a deceleration to abject stalls.

The correlation between the introduction and the popularity of vaping and declining smoking rates suggests that vaping is an important innovation to help people quit smoking. The 2018 US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report found that the smoking rate has decreased overall more rapidly since vaping became more prominent in the United States.”

While politicians may read the text, will they listen to the message? It’s very clear: “Despite many voices seeking to undermine vaping as a gateway out of smoking, the evidence is sound: vaping saves lives.”

Originally published here.

UK: Bipartisan Inquiry Into The UN’s Harmful Anti-Vaping Regulations

With growing international recognition of the danger to public health the World Health Organization poses, it is pleasing to see that across the pond a bi-partisan committee has been established to launch an inquiry into the scandal-prone taxpayer-funded bureaucracy. 

The All Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping, comprised of Members of Parliament across all sides of politics, is currently collecting evidence on the failures of the UN’s anti-tobacco harm reduction policies

The Americans for Tax Reform Affiliate, the Property Rights Alliance, submitted the following testimony to the Inquiry (full version with citations may be downloaded here): 

29 January 2021

Subject: Comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping Inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties

Dear Chairman Pawsey,

Thank you for the opportunity to submit comments to the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Vaping (APPG) inquiry into the Ninth Conference of the Parties (COP9).

Property Rights Alliance (PRA) is an international advocacy and research organization based in Washington, D.C. dedicated to protecting intellectual property rights, physical property rights and promoting innovation around the world.

1.UK Government policies should promote the successful quit aid tools.

There is a consensus in the United Kingdom among academics, scientists, and the medical community that reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as vaping e-cigarettes are significantly less harmful than smoking combustible cigarettes. Extensive research by Public Health England and the Royal College of Physicians has determined that by providing users with nicotine, but bypassing the combustion process that is the main cause of tobacco-related morbidity, electronic cigarettes are 95% less harmful (Public Health England, 2018) than combustible tobacco. For this reason, over 30 of the world’s leading public health organizations have endorsed nicotine vaping as safer than smoking and an effective way to help smokers quit.

In addition to their relative safety compared to combustible tobacco, scientific data support the function of vaping products as a successful quit aid tool considerably more effective than traditional nicotine replacement therapies. A 2019 study by the U.K. National Health Service published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that e-cigarettes may help adults quit. A group assigned to e-cigarettes as a combustible tobacco replacement were more likely to remain abstinent at one year compared with a group using nicotine replacement products (18% versus 9.9%).

According to a report commissioned on e-cigarettes by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine (2018) which analyzed the findings of 800 peer-reviewed studies, it was determined that there is moderate evidence that risk and severity of dependence are lower for e-cigarettes than combustible tobacco cigarettes. and that there is conclusive evidence that completely substituting e-cigarettes from combustible tobacco cigarettes reduces a user’s exposure to numerous toxicants. The published update of the Cochrane Collaboration review in October 2020 also showed that e-cigarettes helped smokers to achieve long-term smoking abstinence.  It assessed the results of 50 studies from across 13 jurisdictions, representing 12,430 participants.

As a result of their effectiveness as an aid to quit smoking, e-cigarettes have become extremely popular, increasing from about seven million users in 2011 to 41 million in 2018 (Euromonitor International). Over the next 10 years about six million premature deaths could be averted, if most smokers switched to e-cigarettes.With the introduction of e-cigarettes, a rapid drop in the smoking rate has coincided from 19.3% in 2010 to 13.7% in 2018.

Public Health England has played a significant role in advancing evidence-based policymaking and ensuring that alternative nicotine delivery devices, which are less harmful than smoking, are available to smokers who are trying to quit. As such, this is in line with Government Policy to reduce mortality rates.

The FCTC has as its mission to ‘protect present and future generations from the devastating health, social, environmental and economic consequences of tobacco consumption and exposure to tobacco smoke …. to reduce continually and substantially the prevalence of tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke.’ Policies enacted under this framework must therefore aim to actually reduce smoking prevalence. Evidence has demonstrated that recent policies promulgated have not only strayed from this goal but are in active opposition to it.  While the UK has played a positive role in terms of reducing the burden of people smoking, and with e-cigarettes helping millions of adult smokers quit smoking, it is disturbing that the World Health Organization thus far refuses to acknowledge the science and is actively advising governments against effective tobacco harm reduction policies.  The government of the United Kingdom should promote harm-reducing practices within the WHO discussions and reduce barriers to access innovative products that are game-changers for smoke-free policies. Any measures that COP9 will propose should recognize the data presented and consider the UK national experience.

The United Kingdom, as a global leader in tobacco control, can ensure that regulatory measures are based on sufficient and convincing data. This is the only case to implement realistic measures to each country that will be efficient. A general idea about the protection of public health is not enough. The reports to COP9 will likely continue to recommend that countries either ban new harm reduction products or regulate them strictly to discourage their use. An example of strict regulation is the Plain Packaging implemented for tobacco, which has been conclusively proven to have failed to have any impact upon smoking rates in any jurisdiction where it has been tried but has instead led to a boon in black market illicit tobacco smuggling by international criminal syndicates.  

2.The discussions within the WHO and COP do not reflect real-life evidence.

The policy positions presented by WHO should be based in realistic and accurate criteria about tobacco consumption and efficacy of harm reduction tobacco products. A procedure based in transparency and public consultation will contribute more to the goal of smoking reduction. The Advisory Bodies (TobReg and TobLanNet) and the Governing body of COP should collect data from independent scientific teams and make them visible to countries like the UK. Similarly, it is a fundamental principle of good government that decisions be made in an open, accountable, and transparent manner. Unfortunately, COP meetings operated behind closed doors, with no opportunity for journalists, scientists or non-profit watchdogs to observe or participate.  Furthermore, there is no public consultation between the release of the Secretariat report and the COP session. WHO should make transparency part of their policy.

As most anti-tobacco policies and legislation ratified under the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) aim to reduce smoking prevalence, the justification of COP proposals should be formed based on the smoking rate of each category (adults, youth etc), the tobacco consumption and the success of the quit aid tools in each country. Massive bans or brand removals are trade tactics oriented towards the market structure and not the protection of public health. Prohibition time and time again has been shown to fail.

In contrast to the “abstinence only” policy of the WHO, Public Health England (PHE) has offered guidance for employers and organizations looking to introduce policies around e-cigarettes and vaping in public and recommends that such policies should be evidence-based. This is a more sensible system of regulation, which works with consumers to ensure better public health outcomes. It is noted that the UK government can further improve some aspects of its tobacco policy and the constraints (health warnings and advertising ban) imposed by the EU Tobacco Products Directive should be removed so as to ensure smokers have access to appropriate information regarding the health benefits of quitting smoking through vaping.

3.The tobacco control policies for adolescents and the unintended consequences of proposals.

In the UK, the rate of minors using vape products has consistently been below 2 percent.Data from the 2019 ASH YouGov Smokefree youth GB survey suggest that a large majority (93.8% in total) of children ages 11-18 in the UK who have never smoked have also never used an e-cigarette (87.8%) or are not even aware of them (6.0%). The overall trend in tobacco use over time in both adults and children has been downwards since 2010, when e-cigarette use became widespread among adult smokers and ex-smokers (Adult smoking habits in the UK, 2017-2018). A 2018 report by Public Health England found that e-cigarettes are attracting very few young people who have never smoked into regular use and that e-cigarette use among never-smokers is less than 1%. A possible flavor taste ban is a policy measure hurting the public health and the UK Government should be aware of the unintended consequences of such measures. Governmental policies should protect young people and at the same time provide a cessation aid for people attempting to quit smoking. 

The United Kingdom followed the European Tobacco Products Directive in response to the WHO’s call to action in preventing youth from using tobacco products. In a framework of going completely ‘smoke-free’ by 2030, the UK banned the manufacture and sale of menthol cigarettes since 20 May 2020, despite the lack of evidence of flavored tobacco being responsible for any increased tobacco usage. Alternative products such as menthol vaping products  are still available in the market. In some countries such as Netherlands, the Government proposed banning flavors in electronic vaping products as well, a measure that failed to consider the public health benefit of a harm reduction tool.

Flavors must remain available through legal channels as a matter of consumer safety. Otherwise, the black-market will flourish while putting dangerous products in the hands of thousands of consumers. Banning vape flavors practically misinforms smokers about the relative risks of e-cigarettes and limits the usefulness of vaping. Significantly more adults and youth may go back to smoking combustible tobacco. According to the Consumer Choice Center, access to flavors increases the likelihood of quitting smoking by 230% and 260,363 vapers would be driven back to smoking without them.

According to the ASH Smokefree Great Britain 2019 Survey, if the flavours were banned, 1 in 5 smokers said they would either smoke more tobacco or return to smoking tobacco. A US 2017 survey of young adults using both e-cigarettes and vaping products, indicated that a ban on e-liquid flavors would lead to increases in combustible cigarette use and simultaneously lead to reductions in e-cigarette use. As such, any proposals through the COP process to further restrict access to flavoured vaping products would without doubt lead to an increase in people smoking combustible cigarettes.

4.WHO bans the use of tobacco harm reduction tools, moving away from FCTC objectives.

According to the latest Global State of Tobacco Harm reduction (GSTHR) report(GSTHR, Burning Issues 2020) almost 100 million people are now using a range of vaping products and they do not use combustible cigarettes at all. The evidence provided by this report shows the effect of harm reduction products such as e-cigarettes on the global decline in cigarette consumption per adult.

On the contrary WHO in its latest report from their expert committee on Tobacco Product Regulation, released December 23rd, recommended to ban and prohibit e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products (WHO Expert Committee Meeting Report, Dec 23, 2020). This recommendation conflicts with the FCTC protocol to Eliminate Illicit Trade in Tobacco Products that aimed at eliminating all forms of illicit trade in the tobacco environment. The banning of vaping products would lead the smokers to purchase their e-cigarettes from illicit markets or from jurisdictions where they are legal. Public health may be damaged with a sharp rise in smuggling and sale of illegal e-cigarettes. Illicit trade of e-cigarettes is a mounting problem across the globe that hurts economies and also may be used to fund terrorist and similar criminal enterprises. Furthermore, it ignores the scientific evidence provided indicating the power of vaping products to increase quit rates more effectively or to modify behaviors associated with combustible cigarettes.

Despite the fact that the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) aims to reduce harmful tobacco consumption, there have only been a few attempts to empirically evaluate the impact of this international treaty. Unfortunately, there is no empirical interventional study to evaluate the effectiveness of the decision to adopt a tobacco control treaty as a strategy for reducing global cigarette consumption. Analysis of tobacco consumption trends is necessary to discern patterns for future tobacco control policies including the different priorities of each country’s strategy. No internationally comparable data on tobacco consumption are available for analysis by quasi-experiment. An interdisciplinary and international collaboration is necessary under the WHO, setting down standards for research and assessing risk and benefits.

Among FCTC’s mandates was the investigation of novel tobacco products. The FCTC is not a good forum for encouraging new ideas. The investigation by FCTC apparently is limited to strict regulations of tobacco products that often referred to the products as a “serious barrier to progress”.There is a persistent problem with the WHO relying on poor evidence or the motivated reasoning of activists. The WHO Executive Board 146th session meeting (February 2020) called for countries to ban or restrict the use of e-cigarettes and novel and emerging tobacco products. FCTC has examined a limited amount of scientific evidence and, by their own admission, “international scientific consensus was not yet reached”on the existing health effects.

WHO should take a fresh look at the function of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool and accept the progress that the tobacco industry has made in developing products that are able to significantly reduce smoking. Science should come first in every health issue or situation. The pandemic crisis confirmed this statement. Policies of WHO, including plain packaging and banning of vaping products, damage Intellectual Property Rights and innovation. States can protect public health without damaging private property right protections and security of innovation. Tobacco control should be a social, public health, and quality-of-life concern rather than a business and trade issue.

5. Intellectual Property Rights are significant for the innovative harm-reducing products.

E-cigarettes became possible only due to strong intellectual property rights in a competitive open market. Intellectual property rights connect innovators with consumers’ demand for harm-reducing products. States can protect public health without compromising the protection of private property rights and market-driven innovation. The effective protection of intellectual and property rights is essential and can promote investment in the market.

When a ban in tobacco products is introduced, the right to property (Article 1, First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights) is weighed against the legitimate interest of public health. The rationale for the health function of banning vaping products contradicts the overwhelming evidence on e-cigarettes as the most successful quit aid. It is a discriminatory measure for consumers, who are denied the access to products with reduced risk. It may support some fundamental rights including the right to health and a clean environment, but it unduly violates the right to liberty, property and equality. Practices like these, discourage investment and put businesses at risk of losing their competitive edge. Policies that undermine innovation often have unintended consequences, and Property Rights Alliance opposes all measures that have irreparable harm to intellectual property.

6. Conclusion

The initial intention of the COP process was to reduce tobacco dependency and the associated mortality caused by the smoking of conventional tobacco products. In actively opposing the opportunities presented by newer reduced-risk tobacco alternatives such as e-cigarettes, the World Health Organization is now actively working against its stated mission. It is furthermore deeply troubling that independent scientific experts remain excluded from the COP9 process, and the complete lack of transparency and consultation violate every norm of sound public policy.

As a result of the WHO pursing a policy agenda that is contrary to science, the UK faces significant threats that its successful harm reduction model may be undermined, and access to life-saving products may be restricted. As such, unless the UK and like-minded pro-science governments are able to achieve serious structural reform in the WHO, the UK needs to re-evaluate its participation in the FCTC.

Originally published here.

Brusel ide do vojny proti rakovine. Cigarety a alkohol výrazne zdražejú

Európska únia chce zatočiť s rakovinou. Komisia by dnes mala predstaviť plán, ako znížiť túto zákernú chorobu na minimum. Aj keď materiál ešte nebol oficiálne zverejnený, jeho časti už unikli.

Ako uviedol portál politico.eu, Brusel chce do roku 2040 zapracovať na tom, aby vznikla takzvaná beztabaková generácia.

To by malo v praxi znamenať, že počet fajčiarov by mal poklesnúť pod 5 percent z celkovej populácie. V súčasnosti je tento podiel u nás približne na úrovni 20 percent.

Originally published here.

Vaping is the gateway out of smoking

Recent trends framing e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking do not stand up to scrutiny, write the Consumer Choice Center’s Maria Chaplia and World Vapers’ Alliance’s Michael Landl.

The innovative nature of vaping has contributed to its success and allowed it to quickly gain popularity among smokers. At the same time, because it is a novel technology, it has also been met with suspicion across the world – especially in the European Union.

Aside from targeting the harm-reduction nature of vaping, some of the recent criticism has also sought to frame vaping as a gateway to conventional smoking. However, that couldn’t be farther from the truth, and the longer the European Union continues to demonise vaping, the fewer smokers get a chance to switch to a safer and healthier alternative. We know enough about vaping to endorse it at EU level.

The newest Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) UK report states that “only 0.3 percent of never-smokers are current vapers (amounting to 2.9 percent of vapers)”. Therefore, a gateway effect to smoking is not reflected in the data and many studies show the opposite effect. For example, smoking rates in the UK – where public health authorities encourage vaping as a gateway out of smoking – are at an all-time low and there is no sign of vaping causing more smoking.

Moreover, countries that adopt harm reduction policies see better results in reducing smoking compared to more restrictive countries. One of the latter examples is Australia, which is very hostile to vaping. This hostility has consequences: the rate of decline of smoking rates is much slower compared to the United States or the UK which are more vaping friendly countries. Since 2013 when vaping became popular, the adult smoking rates have reduced significantly. In the UK, approximately 25 percent fewer people smoke today compared to 2013, while  the US has seen a 24 percent reduction. For the same period, Australia saw a decline of only 8 percent.

“Recent trends framing e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking do not stand up to scrutiny. E-cigarettes are a gateway out of smoking”

The correlation between the introduction and the popularity of vaping and declining smoking rates suggests that vaping is an important innovation to help people quit smoking. The 2018 US National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine Report found that the smoking rate has decreased overall more rapidly since vaping became more prominent in the United States.

The landmark report on vaping’s potential to save lives was commissioned by Public Health England in 2015, providing evidence that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than combustible tobacco and has thus become a recommended means of quitting for smokers in the United Kingdom. FranceCanada and New Zealand followed their lead.

It is important to keep in mind that demand for cigarettes per se is inelastic, and measures such as advertising bans, plain packaging, and taxes have not proved to be effective in reducing smoking rates. Vaping, on the contrary, serves as a viable alternative that provides smokers with an opportunity to reduce health-associated risks and eventually quit smoking.

The effectiveness of e-cigarettes as a smoking cessation tool is undeniable as it targets smokers as opposed to non-smokers. Recent trends framing e-cigarettes as a gateway to smoking do not stand up to scrutiny. E-cigarettes are a gateway out of smoking. Anti-vaping measures are disastrous and detrimental to the health of smokers for whom vaping has become a life-saving tool. Policymakers must reconsider their approach to vaping. Despite many voices seeking to undermine vaping as a gateway out of smoking, the evidence is sound: vaping saves lives.

Originally published here.

EU crackdown on vaping is bad news for public health

The Beating Cancer Plan will make vaping harder.

The leaked Commission proposal for the EU’s Beating Cancer Plan has revealed the bloc’s plans to make harm reducing products such as vaping devices harder to access and consume in the European Union. Under this proposal, the EU would hike taxation rules on vaping products to match those of conventional cigarettes, treating those products as equivalent threats to human health.

This ignores existing public health research. As Public Health England has confirmed, vaping is 95% safer than conventional tobacco. Adding to that, vaping has consistently been shown to be an effective method of fuelling smoking cessation, i.e. helping those smokers who choose to quit, to do so. With such an innovation, the EU should rejoice in the existence of tobacco alternatives that offer a solution —- something policy-makers have not managed to achieve through brute policy for decades.

Increasing taxation levels will increase the price of vaping products, and give many smokers yet another reason not to quit, which would be terrible news for public health. In many EU member states, cigarette prices are at such high levels that they have already fueled the rise of black-market producers. A blanket tax hike can, therefore, produce one of two results: either it will fuel an equally sizable black market for vaping (which is currently a more economical solution for consumers than cigarettes in many countries), or it will lead many vapers returning to the more harmful option of smoking.

Another suggestion made by the European Commission is the phasing-out and eventual restriction of vape flavours. Vaping devices are known for their fancy flavour options, from traditional fruit flavours to more extravagant ones. Smokers switch to vaping precisely because of these flavour options. Phasing them out would reduce that incentive. 

Well-intended policy-makers believe this proposal would prevent teens from using these products. But vaping is, and remains, something that should only be used by informed adults. There may be examples of underaged people who have acquired vape devices and liquids, but this is far from the fault of responsible adult users and law-abiding retailers. Governments should impose harsher fines on retailers and other individuals who facilitate the sale of vapes to minors, yet recognise that vaping represents a real opportunity for adult users.

The Commission is also proposing to restrict vaping in public areas, similar to cigarettes. Here again, we should appeal to the common sense of vapers to behave responsibly and respectfully in public places, without needing to equate vaping with smoking. And without encroaching on member state jurisdiction. 

Creating more hurdles for smokers to switch to innovative vaping solutions is a step in the wrong direction — this EU proposal would actively destroy much of the healthier transition that former smokers have made in the last years.

Hopefully, the European Parliament will take a more nuanced point of view. Some parliamentarians have expressed the will to include vaping as a smoking cessation tool in the final proposal, and experts testifying in EP committees have underlined that this is based on scientific evidence. The Parliament now needs to put its foot down, and strongly oppose the Commission narrative on vaping.

Governments have tried for decades to get people off smoking and have had limited impact. The true innovations have arisen from market solutions like vaping.  Why not allow innovative solutions to be explored and endorsed, especially when government scientific agencies are confirming their safety? If it’s really about beating cancer, then let’s do it together, not against the science.

Originally published here.

Apakah Melarang Vape pada Masa Pandemi Merupakan Kebijakan yang Tepat?

Pandemi COVID-19 hingga saat ini masih menjadi permasalahan besar yang harus dihadapi oleh berbagai negara di seluruh dunia. Salah satu dampak dari hal tersebut adalah, perayaan tahun baru 2021 kemarin terasa sangat berbeda di berbagai kota-kota besar di banyak negara.

Tidak ada perayaan besar-besaran, pesta meriah, hingga kembang api yang mewarnai langit malam. Jutaan orang di seluruh dunia terpaksa harus tinggal di kediaman mereka, atau merayakan tahun baru di tempat yang tertutup, bersama orang-orang dekat mereka dalam jumlah yang kecil.

Untuk itu, penanganan dan pengentasan pandemi COVID-19, yang sudah memakan korban jiwa hingga lebih dari 2 juta orang di seluruh dunia, menjadi prioritas utama banyak pemerintahan di dunia. Berbagai pemerintahan di seluruh dunia mengambil berbagai langkah yang dianggap mampu untuk memitigasi dampak virus yang penyebarannya sangat mudah tersebut.Beragam kebijakan dilakukan oleh banyak pemerintahan di seluruh dunia untuk mengatasi dan memitigasi pandemi tersebut. Beberpaa kebijakan yang umum diambil oleh berbagai pemerintahan di dunia diantaranya adalah lockdown nasional untuk menutup seluruh fasilitas umum, sarana pendidikan, dan gedung perkantoran, menutup perbatasan, dan mewajibkan seluruh warga yang keluar rumah untuk mengenakan masker.

Selain itu, lockdown, menutup perbatasan, dan mewajibkan semua orang menggunakan masker bukan hanya kebijakan yang diambil oleh berbagai pemerintahan di dunia untuk memitigasi dampak dari pandemi COVID-19. Kebijakan lain yang juga dilakukan adalah melarang berbagai produk yang dianggap berpotensi meningkatkan dampak dari pandemi COVID-19. Salah produk yang menjadi sasaran dari kebijakan tersebut adalah rokok elektronik tertentu, yang juga dikenal dengan nama vape.

Di Amerika Serikat misalnya, pelarangan vape sebagai untuk memitigasi pandemi COVID-19 merupakan kebijakan yang dilakukan oleh beberapa pemerintahan di negara bagian dan juga kota memberlakukan pelarangan terhadap vape berperasa (salud-america.org, 18/09/2020). Lantas, apakah kebijakan tersebut merupakan sesuatu yang tepat? Berdasarkan penelitian yang dilakukan oleh berbagai lembaga kesehatan di seluruh dunia, rokok elektronik, atau vape, merupakan produk yang jauh lebih aman daripada rokok elektronik yang dibakar. Hasil penelitian yang dilakukan oleh lembaga kesehatan Pemerintah Inggris misalnya, Public Health England, menunjukkan bahwa vape atau rokok elektronik jauh lebih aman 95% dari rokok konvensional yang dibakar (Public Health England, 19/07/2015).

Tidak hanya itu, vape atau rokok elektronik juga terbukti dapat membantu jutaan perokok untuk berhenti merokok. Lembaga kesehatan Inggris, National Health Service misalnya, menyatakan bahwa rokok elektronik atau vape merupakan produk yang efektif untuk membantu seseorang berhenti dari kebiasaan merokoknya (National Health Service, 29/03/2019).

Hal ini tentu merupakan hal yang sangat positif. Adanya produk yang jauh lebih aman, yang dapat membantu seorang perokok untuk menghentikan kebiasaan merokoknya tentu adalah hal yang harus kita dukung dan apresiasi. Selain itu, pihak yang paling dirugikan apabila pelarangan vape diberlakukan adalah para perokok, di mana mereka tidak lagi bisa mendapatkan akses terhadap produk yang dapat membantu mereka berhenti merokok. Kebijakan tersebut membuat lebih banyak keburukan daripada manfaat (reason.org, 22/06/2020).

Selain itu, dampak unintended consequences yang dapat terjadi bila kebijakan tersebut diberlakukan adalah, bila vape dilarang, maka akan lebih banyak produk-produk vape ilegal yang sangat berbahaya bagi konsumen, karena tidak melalui proses regulasi oleh pemerintah. Hal ini tentu merupakan sesuatu yang sangat berbahaya. Bila produk ilegal vape membanjiri pasar, terlebih lagi pada masa pandemi seperti sekarang, maka akan lebih banyak orang-orang sakit, dan rumah sakit serta sarana kesehatan akan semakin sulit menampung mereka, karena sudah dipenuhi oleh para pasien COVID-19 (Newsday.com, 04/05/2020).

Dampak dari beredarnya vape ilegal terhadap kesehatan publik bukan sesuatu yang dapat kita abaikan begitu saja, dan sudah pernah terjadi di beberapa tempat, salah satunya di Amerika Serikat. Di negeri Paman Sam, pada tahun 2019, terjadi kasus orang-orang yang terkena penyakit dan gangguan pernafasan yang disebabkan oleh konsumsi produk-produk vape ilegal. Setidaknya ada 35 orang yang meninggal disebabkan karena konsumsi produk ilegal tersebut (The Washington Post, 26/10/2019).

Sebagai penutup, kebijakan pelarangan vape, apalagi di masa pandemi COVID-19, adalah sesuatu yang berbahaya. Kebijakan ini bukan hanya akan menghilangkan kesempatan bagi jutaan perokok untuk mengakses produk-produk yang dapat membantu mereka berhenti merokok, namun juga berpotensi akan meningkatkan produk-produk vape ilegal yang berbahaya bagi konsumen, yang akan semakin memberatkan sarana kesehatan yang sudah dibebani oleh banyaknya pasien COVID-19.

Originally published here.

Vaping: The next best alternative

Israr Hasan for DOT : [2] Smoking is a common habit here in Bangladesh, affecting everyone from teenagers to senior citizens. In order to reduce the harm caused by cigarettes, many young people are shifting to e-cigarettes or vapes, credited as one of the most effective quit smoking tools we’ve seen. E-cigarettes are available everywhere in Bangladesh from small street corner shops to e-commerce sites as they grow in high demand.

[3] That said, the Bangladesh government has recently stated that it is working to stop the production and consumption of e-cigarettes in the country. This proposal would be disastrous for adult consumers who want a less risky alternative. Bangladesh is thus set to follow India’s example, which last year banned e-cigarettes in response to what they had called an “epidemic”. This coincides with the goal of making the country tobacco-free by 2040, which to the outside eye appears to be more of an emergency than a grand vision.

[4] Once again, here we see the government meddling in a way that is harmful to consumers. Vaping is seen as the best alternative because it generally acts as a legitimate quitting tool and is significantly less harmful than conventional cigarettes to consumers.

[5] Vapes do not require fire that needs to be lit and hence, no combustion takes place. Consequently, there is no smoke, tar, carbon monoxide, and no risk of passive smoking is associated with it making it environmentally friendly, as third parties are not affected.

[6] In Bangladesh, there seems to be a severe lack of information on vaping, but plenty of misinformation. As in many cases, it is better to leave consumers to choose their own method of quitting tobacco rather than having a top-down decision.

[7] Allowing the use of vapes as a less harmful alternative can help large numbers of smokers quit. Vaping can help Bangladesh achieve its vision of becoming tobacco-free by 2040, but there should be an organic framework where market forces do the work rather than constant governmental instructions.

Israr Hasan is a policy fellow at the Consumer Choice Center

Originally published here.

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