Vaping

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.

Shocking footage of police tasing a teenage boy for allegedly vaping in public has spurred outrage across the globe.

A group of Maryland officers was seen forcefully arresting the 18-year-old after claims he was asked to stop vaping on the Ocean City boardwalk.

Eyewitnesses say police instructed the teen, Taizier Griffin, to remove his backpack and lay down on the ground, but tased and hog-tied him when he reached for his bag.

Griffin was reportedly charged with resisting arrest and second-degree assault, however, viral footage of the event showed that he appeared to be complying with police instructions at the time.

Twitter user Rob Wiscount said:

“Besides the obvious police brutality on display here, it is also an astounding display of misappropriation of police resources.

“Ocean City used six officers and 50,000 volts…to stop one 18-year-old…from VAPING!

“If he had a skateboard, they’d have called SWAT?”

Rapper Ice T also commented on the incident, tweeting: “Cops tased this kid for Vaping??? RealIy…! At least they didn’t kill him I guess…smh…. wow.”

Astonishingly, the same thing happened just six days later, with a group of four teens being arrested after allegedly ignoring the ban on vaping.

One of the boys involved claims he was tased, whilst another was pinned down and repeatedly kneed in the side by an officer.

Ocean City officials said that ‘officers are permitted to use force, per their training, to overcome exhibited resistance,’ but many are questioning why the police took such aggressive steps to enforce the boardwalk’s vaping regulations.

Twitter user Jukka Kelovuori also weighed in, saying: “Getting arrested over vaping is probably way riskier than a lifetime of vaping in itself.”

Officials confirmed that both arrests will be investigated, explaining that they are aware of public concerns about the incidents.

They said: “While the use of force is never the intended outcome, our police department’s first priority is to protect and serve.”

Vaping advocates have raised concerns that widespread bans and strict regulations could lead to more arrests like this.

Yaël Ossowski of the Consumer Choice Center said:

“The MORE you ban and demonize ordinary consumer products, the MORE police interactions you condone.

“We don’t need more situations like this…Let People Live.”

The consumer group Rights4Vapers also tweeted: “We cannot let vapers be criminalized.

“Vaping is not a crime.”

Originally published here.

Bahaya Pelarangan Vape di Negara Berkembang

Dunia saat ini masih terus berperang melawan pandemi COVID-19 yang muncul pada akhir tahun 2019 lalu. Sudah satu setengah tahun lamanya, virus yang sangat mudah menyebar antar manusia ini telah meluluh-lantahkan berbagai kegiatan, seperti acara musik dan perhelatan olahraga, serta keseharian miliaran orang di berbagai tempat di dunia.

Salah satu dampak yang paling terlihat dari munculnya pandemi ini adalah semakin banyaknya orang-orang yang sadar akan pentingnya kesehatan dan kebersihan. Semakin banyak dari kita yang menyadari bahwa mencuci tangan atau membersihkan badan setelah keluar rumah adalah sesuatu yang sangat penting untuk dilakukan agar terhindar dari segala macam penyakit, khususnya COVID-19.

Tidak hanya dari masyarakat, banyak pemerintahan di berbagai belahan dunia juga mulai mengkampanyekan gaya hidup sehat untuk mencegah penyebaran virus tersebut. Beberapa diantaranya yang kita kenal di Indonesia adalah gerakan 5M, yakni Memakai masker, mencuci tangan pakai sabun dan air mengalir, menjaga jarak, menjauhi kerumunan, serta membatasi mobilisasi dan interaksi (kesehatan.kontan.co.id, 26/1/2021).

Namun, berbagai upaya memperbaki kesehatan publik yang diadvokasikan oleh sebagian pihak guna mencegah penyebaran COVID-19 juga tidak hanya melalui kampanye, tetapi juga melalui pelarangan berbagai produk yang dianggap membahayakan kesehatan. Salah satunya produk yang kerap menjadi sasaran adalah produk-produk tembakau seperti rokok.

Salah satu negara yang memberlakukan pelarangan tersebut adalah Afrika Selatan. Pada tahun 2020 lalu misalnya, Afrika Selatan melarang pembelian produk-produk tembakau seperti rokok (bbc.com, 17/5/2020).

Akan tetapi, tidak hanya produk-produk rokok konvensional yang dibakar saja yang diadvokasi oleh beberapa pihak untuk dilarang. Salah satu produk lain yang diadvokasi oleh sebagian pihak untuk dilarang adalah produk-produk rokok elektronik, atau yang dikenal dengan nama vape, karena dianggap juga membahayakan kesehatan.

Salah satu pengusaha dan filantropi yang mengadvokasi kebijakan tersebut adalah pengusaha besar asal Amerika Serikat, Michael Bloomberg. Bloomberg telah meluncurkan inisiatif global untuk pengendalian tembakau sebesar USD1 miliar, atau sekitar 14 triliun rupiah.

Dampak dari inisiatif global yang dilancarkan oleh Bloomberg ini sudah muncul di berbagai negara, khususnya di negara-negara berkembang. Di Filipina misalnya, lembaga regulator kesehatan mulai mempresentasikan berbagai dokumen kebijakan tidak hanya melarang rokok, namun juga vape, di negara tersebutm setelah mendapatkan dana dari inisiatif global Bloomberg (brusselstimes.com, 18/3/2021).

Tidak hanya di Filipina, Meksiko juga mengalami kejadian yang serupa. Di Meksiko belum lama ini, terungkap bahwa salah satu staf pengacara dari lembaga advokasi kesehatan yang didanai oleh Bloomberg, yang bernama Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, telah menyusun undang-undang yang bertujuan untuk melarang impor dan penjualan produk-produk vape (brusselstimes.com, 18/3/2021).

Kebijakan ini tentunya merupakan sesuatu yang sangat memprihatinkan, khususnya di negara-negara berkembang. Pelarangan terhadap produk-produk vape atau rokok elektronik berarti akan semakin banyak orang yang beralih ke produk-produk rokok konvensional yang dibakar, atau produk-produk vape ilegal yang sangat berbahaya hingga dapat menimbulkan kematian.

Hal ini akan semakin berbahaya bila terjadi di negara-negara berkembang, apalagi pada masa pandemi, karena secara umum negara-negara tersebut tidak memiliki fasilitas layanan kesehatan yang baik. Bila produk-produk vape dilarang, terlebih lagi pada masa pendemi, maka akan semakin banyak orang yang beralih ke rokok konvensional yang dibakar, yang secara ilmiah sudah terbukti menyebabkan berbagai penyakit kronis seperti kanker dan penyakit jantung.

Vape atau rokok elektronik sudah terbukti merupakan produk yang jauh lebih aman bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Pada tahun 2015 lalu, lembaga kesehatan Britania Raya, Public Health England (PHE), mengeluarkan laporan bahwa vape atau rokok elektronik merupakan produk yang 95% jauh lebih aman bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar (Public Health England, 2015).

Oleh karena itu, kebijakan untuk memperbaiki kesehatan publik dengan cara melarang produk-produk vape atau rokok elektronik adalah kebijakan yang tidak tepat. Untuk memperbaiki kesehatan publik dari dampak negatif dari rokok konvensional, akan lebih efektif bila dengan membeirkan opsi produk lain yang lebih aman kepada para perokok.

Hal ini sudah terbukti di negara-negara di mana pemerintahnya bukan melarang produk-produk vape, namun justru mendorong para perokok untuk beralih ke produk-produk rokok elektronik yang jauh lebih aman. Di negara-negara tersebut, jumlah perokok justru menjadi berkurang. Di Selandia Baru misalnya, berdasarkan survei tahun 2018, ada 13,2% perokok. Jumlah tersebut berkurang dari tahun 2013 ketika angka perokok sejumlah 15,1% (stats.govt.nz, 10/10/2019).

Sebagai penutup, bila kita ingin membantu para perokok, khususnya di negara-negara berkembang yang jumlahnya sangat besar, maka kita harus mampu menyediakan produk alternatif yang dapat digunakan oleh para perkok untuk menghentikan kebiasaannya. Jangan sampai, intensi baik kita untuk memperbaiki kesehatan publik justru semakin menghasilkan sesuatu yang lebih buruk.

Originally published here.

Regulate vaping to keep youth vaping incidences to a minimum, says consumer advocacy group

Regulating vaping can help keep youth vaping incidences to a minimum, said a UK-based consumer advocacy group.

In a statement today, the London-based Consumer Choice Center (CCC) said that in the UK, where vape is regulated, youth vaping incidences have been minimised.

It cited a report in 2021 by Action on Smoking and Health, which examined the use of e-cigarettes or vape among youths in Great Britain, that found that a large majority of 11 to 18-year-olds have never tried or are unaware of e-cigarettes (83%). This finding has remained consistent since 2017.

It said the survey further found that vaping is much less common among youths who have never smoked. A large majority of “never smokers” aged 11-18 years, 94.1% in total, have either never vaped (87.9%) or are not aware of them (6.2%).

In its recent policy note entitled “Age Restrictions of Vape Products”, CCC recommended the following:
• Introduce smart regulations and enforce strict age restrictions on vaping devices and liquids at the points of sale
• Use modern age verification technology for online sales
• Learn from other industries such as alcohol and fireworks on how to improve compliance rates
• Retail and industry should be encouraged to be more proactive with the enforcement of rules
• Do not punish legal adult vapers for the lack of enforcement of age restrictions

CCC managing director Fred Roeder said that instead of taking drastic measures such as banning vape, which will only drive more consumers to illegal products on the unregulated black market, a more coordinated approach by both regulators and industry can and should be explored.

“We believe that the regulations with strict enforcement on no-sale to the underage marks the distinction between consenting adult consumers and those who have not reached the legal age to make these decisions,” he said.

He also cited examples from the UK on how controls are put in place to stop the underage from purchasing products with age restrictions.

An example of such a solution is AgeChecked, a UK-based secured online age verification system that requests a buyer’s full name, billing address, and date of birth when placing an order.

This information must be entered as it will appear on the buyer’s driver’s license, electoral roll, or be used for a UK credit card, he said.

Originally published here.

The EU should commit to the concept of harm reduction

A few days ago, I came across a 2017 TEDMED talk on the harm reduction model of drug addiction by Dr Mark Tyndall.

Although mainly focused on drug addiction treatment, the speech provides a valuable insight into the nature of harm reduction that can be applied more generally. In particular, that concerns vaping as a cessation tool.

In the talk, Dr Tyndall argues that “starting with abstinence is like asking a new diabetic to quit sugar or a severe asthmatic to start running marathons or a depressed person to just be happy. For any other medical condition, we would never start with the most extreme option. What makes us think that strategy would work for something as complex as addiction?”

Taxes, marketing and advertising bans along with other restrictions on both tobacco and vaping products pursue a strategy of abstinence. Based on the assumption that smokers can quit overnight after they see a price increase, the reality is that such policies do nothing to reduce smoking rates. Advocates of such an approach point to the declining smoking rates as evidence of their success. However, the causation link is hardly traceable there because of multiple variables at play. 

Although smoking rates in tobacco in vaping restrictive countries such as Ireland, really are declining, it is hardly a reason for optimism. The downward trend in smoking prevalence is driven by people who are dying prematurely from smoking, according to Dr Tyndall. Vaping, on the contrary, could save those lives, and discouraging it is ignorant of consumers’ needs.

Blinded by their pursuit of smoke-free Europe, European policymakers are consistently missing the opportunity to actually help smokers quit. We at the Consumer Choice Center have stressed many times the data point that vaping is 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarettes and that it targets adult consumers who seek to quit smoking. E-cigarettes are an adult-only product and do not serve as a means to entice underage smoking. Although scientifically proved, these facts are overlooked by the EU. 

As such, the flawed belief that vaping contributes to rising underage smoking rates casts a shadow on harm reduction. It is also one of the main reasons underlying the proposed Dutch vape flavour ban. A 2017 study published in Tobacco Control found that as the number of vapers in the US and UK went up, there was no increase in youth smoking. Between 2011 and 2016, smoking in the past 30 days declined from 6.3 percent to 4.3 percent among middle school students and from 21.8 percent to 13.8 percent among high school students in the US.

Overregulation of vaping in the European Union and its member states won’t bring the expected results. Smokers should not be seen as children who have to be punished into abstinence for choosing to smoke. A much better way forward is to encourage them to switch to vaping thereby helping them reduce health associated risks. 

Before it’s too late, we should strongly commit to the concept of harm reduction. Now, that would really help us beat cancer.

Originally published here.

Why the Dutch vaping flavour ban won’t drive down underage smoking rates

Although noble in intent, the ban would have the opposite effect, argue the Consumer Choice Center’s Maria Chaplia and World Vapers Alliance’s Michael Landl.

Starting from 1 July 2022, flavoured e-liquids might be banned in the Netherlands. The decision to proceed with the ban – originally proposed in June 2020 – is drastically at odds with public opinion, let alone science. Combined with the EU Beating Cancer Plan’s restrictive anti-vaping measures, the flavour ban demonstrates Europe’s incessant drift away from evidence-based policymaking.

Vaping is facing such regulatory hardships primarily because it’s misunderstood. Invented as a cessation tool, vaping targets adult smokers, in particular heavy ones, to help them quit. In the UK, electronic cigarettes are even given to smokers at hospitals. And vape flavours play a crucial role in the crusade for lowering tobacco smoking rates.

The Dutch government’s reasoning for the vape flavour ban is to tackle teen smoking. As such, the goal is indeed noble since e-cigarettes should be adult-only products and strict age restrictions need to be enforced. However, if that is really the goal then the Dutch government is shooting in the wrong direction.

According to a recently published study by Yale School of Public Health, a San Francisco vape flavour ban doubled high school students’ probability of smoking conventional cigarettes. The California city saw a 30 percent increase in underage use of cigarettes for the first time in more than a decade, while other cities across the country continue to see declining rates.

“Without solving the teen smoking problem, the ban will have disastrous unintended consequences and undermine harm reduction efforts”

According to a 2017 study published in Tobacco Control, as the number of vapers in the US and UK went up, there was no increase in youth smoking. Between 2011 and 2016, smoking in the past 30 days declined from 6.3 percent to 4.3 percent among middle school students and from 21.8 percent to 13.8 percent among high school students in the US.

Without solving the teen smoking problem, the ban will have disastrous unintended consequences and undermine harm reduction efforts. In the Netherlands, 3.1 percent of adults use e-cigarettes, and, with the ban in place, nearly 260,000 Dutch vapers might return to smoking.

Flavours play a vital role for smokers who want to quit. Adult consumers, who have used vaping to quit smoking say that flavours, other than tobacco, were a decisive factor in preventing them from returning to smoking. By using flavoured e-liquids they are 230 percent more likely to quit smoking than if using tobacco-flavoured ones.

The proposed ban won’t drive down demand for flavours. What it will do, however, is boost illicit trade. As demonstrated by high taxes, marketing and advertising bans, and other restrictions across the board, restrictive policies do not achieve the desired outcomes. Despite a nicotine sales vaping ban in Australia, more than half a million consumers vape, while 2.4 million people have tried it at some point.

As demonstrated by Public Health England, vaping is 95 percent less harmful than tobacco cigarettes. Therefore, both in the short-and long-term, the Dutch vape flavour ban is too high of a price to pay, especially in light of our shared European efforts to reduce cancer rates.

“By using flavoured e-liquids they [adult smokers] are 230 percent more likely to quit smoking than if using tobacco-flavoured ones”

In light of the strong opposition expressed by citizens’ in the public consultation, with 98 percent of submissions opposing the ban, as well as the lack of legitimacy of this cabinet, the Dutch anti-vaping aspirations are completely unethical. This is a huge blow for tobacco harm reduction efforts and all the vapers who raised their voices, and it is likely to tarnish the reputation of the Netherlands.

Originally published here.

HPTL Diyakini Membantu Masyarakat Berhenti Merokok

Jakarta: Inovasi produk nikotin seperti vape, tembakau yang dipanaskan (HTP), snus, dan kantong nikotin atau lebih dikenal di Indonesia dengan sebutan Hasil Pengolahan Tembakau Lainnya (HPTL) diyakini memiliki dampak positif. Salah satunya, membantu perokok untuk berhenti.

Pernyataan ini disampaikan sejumlah aktivis dan ilmuwan dari berbagai belahan dunia saat menghadiri peringatan Hari Vape Sedunia pada 30 Mei 2021. Topik utama dari pertemuan virtual ini adalah pentingnya pemahaman mengenai dampak positif inovasi produk tersebut.

“Inovasi pada produk nikotin sudah terbukti memberikan dampak yang positif. Inovasi teknologi yang ada pada produk HPTL bersifat netral dan lahir dari kebutuhan pengguna akan alternatif produk tembakau yang lebih minim risiko. Sayangnya, terkadang hal ini belum didukung dengan regulasi yang sesuai, sehingga prosesnya terhambat,” kata Wakil Direktur Consumer Choice Center, Yael Ossowski, melalui keterangan tertulis, Rabu, 2 Mei 2021. 

Bagaimana tanggapan anda mengenai artikel ini?

Ossowski mengatakan masih banyak pihak yang menganggap vape dan rokok konvensional merupakan hal yang sama. Ini merupakan salah satu alasan utama mengapa produk HPTL belum mendapatkan regulasi yang sesuai. Selain itu, temuan ilmiah masih belum dijadikan acuan utama dalam merumuskan kebijakan.

Kondisi ini dinilai sangat disayangkan, di mana penelitian terkait produk HPTL saat ini semakin banyak dan berkembang. Ahli Toksikologi dari University of Graz, Austria, Bernd Mayer, menyebut berbagai penelitian sudah membuktikan bahwa vape lebih rendah risiko daripada rokok konvensional.

“Oleh karena itu, upaya mendorong para perokok untuk beralih ke produk alternatif merupakan hal yang tepat,” kata Bernd.

Pada kesempatan yang sama, Cristiana Batista dari Asosiasi Vape Portugal (APORVAP) menjelaskan vape merupakan salah satu hasil penemuan terbesar karena dapat membantu perokok untuk berhenti. Menurut dia, inovasi ini harus disambut dengan insentif dari segi regulasi yang dapat membuat produk ini lebih berkembang dan berdampak positif.

“Saya sangat optimis dengan vape karena produk ini dapat membantu saya berhenti setelah menjadi perokok selama 16 tahun,” kata Batista.

Forum turut mendiskusikan tentang pendekatan baru dalam mengontrol prevalensi merokok di sebuah populasi. Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) atau pengurangan dampak buruk tembakau adalah pendekatan yang menitikberatkan pada pentingnya memberikan alternatif yang lebih rendah risiko untuk para perokok.

Untuk menerapkan pendekatan tersebut, pemerintah perlu mendukung produk-produk HPTL melalui berbagai instrumen regulasi. Sebaliknya, melarang produk-produk tersebut merupakan pilihan yang kurang tepat.

Menurut pendiri dan mantan Direktur Eksekutif (2000–2017) Drug Policy Alliance, Ethan Nadelmann, pelarangan terhadap opsi-opsi alternatif yang rendah risiko justru dapat melahirkan konsekuensi-konsekuensi yang tidak diinginkan. “Ketika Anda melarang sesuatu, hal tersebut tidak membuatnya menghilang begitu saja, permintaan pasar akan tetap ada dan itu membuat jutaan orang kembali ke pasar gelap untuk mendapatkan apa yang mereka butuhkan,” kata Nadelmann.

Originally published here.

Oxfordshire’s plan to become smoke free is yet another example of state overreach

In February of last year, Ansaf Azhar, the director of public health for Oxfordshire county council, unveiled the “Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy”. Azhar had decided that the proportion of people living in Oxfordshire who smoke – 12 per cent – was too high and needed to be slashed. When fewer than five per cent of people smoke, an area can be considered “smoke free”. Azhar made it his mission to make Oxfordshire England’s first smoke-free county.

The Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy was signed offby the county council in principle in May last year. You would be forgiven for thinking that since then, the director of public health at a local authority might have had more pressing matters to attend to than smoking. But Azhar has apparently continued his crusade against cigarettes undeterred.

He has now horrified right-thinking people up and down the country by declaring the council’s intention to ban smoking for outdoor hospitality. Although the plan currently lacks an implementation timetable or any other firm commitment, the fact that it is part of the plan at all says some very worrying things about the direction we’re heading in.

In the new world order of the nanny state, everything can be neatly categorised into good and bad. Everything is black and white – it’s all either vital or morally reprehensible. Once it is accepted that an activity is objectively “bad”, who could possibly oppose its being banned?

Of course, the real world, outside the offices of “directors of public health”, is rather different. It is not all black and white. There are lots of shades of grey. But nuance and freedom of choice aren’t all that fashionable these days.

Unfortunately for smokers, cigarettes have been deemed a social evil. Their existence is so objectively awful that the reasoning behind drastic measures to wipe them from the face of the earth doesn’t even need justifying. The result is that ludicrous policy proposals like the Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy can be signed off and made reality with startlingly little scrutiny from those we elect to represent us and safeguard our civil liberties.

If you can bear it, I recommend a cursory read of the offending document, for novelty value if nothing else. It talks not of blanket bans, sweeping restrictions and ill-thought-out curbs on our freedoms, but instead of “creating smoke free environments”, as though we are being given a gift of something new to enjoy and ought to be grateful.

Most troubling is the way the document’s authors seem to be in complete denial that they are wielding the tools of the state at all. They write: “The interventions required to successfully de-normalise smoking and achieve a smoke free Oxfordshire may be considered as “nanny statist” or an assault on personal choice by some people. The whole system approach to make smoking less visible is not banning the choice of people who choose to smoke. It aims to create smoke free environments in more places in our communities, protecting the free choice of the nine out of ten residents of Oxfordshire who choose not to smoke.”

Oh, you thought our harsh new restrictions on what you can and can’t do in public were an assault on your freedom, did you? Don’t worry – if you look carefully, you’ll find that bans on common activities actually give you more freedom, not less.

The counter-factual logic behind the introduction of new regulations in the name of “public health” knows no bounds. If the council actually wanted to make Oxfordshire healthier, it would see that the answer is not to put yet more unnecessary strain on the hospitality industry at this impossibly difficult time.

Instead, the council should throw all its efforts behind supporting vaping as an alternative to smoking. More than half of Britain’s e-cigarette users – around 1.7 million people – are former smokers. Those nine out of ten Oxfordshire residents who don’t smoke won’t have to worry about any health risks from second-hand e-cigarette vapour. Even Public Health England concedes – with a great deal of reluctance – that vaping is 95 per cent less harmful than smoking.

And yet, in the 24-page Oxfordshire Tobacco Control Strategy, there is not a single mention of vaping, the most effective instrument for tobacco control we have. That begs the question: what do the public health authorities actually want, if it is not to make people healthier? When they flagrantly eschew proven harm reduction tools in favour of gratuitous centralised policy interventions, it becomes impossible to sympathise with their motives.

This problem stretches much further than Oxfordshire. In fact, the county is only a few years ahead of national public health outcomes. Its strategy mimics that of Public Health England, which is working towards Matt Hancock’s target of making England smoke-free by 2030.

The attack on effective harm reduction methods and the swing towards a new age of nanny statism comes from the very top. Last week, the World Health Organisation honoured the health minister of India for his work on “tobacco control” which notably includes banning vaping. A new APPG, chaired by Mark Pawsey, the Conservative MP, seeks to bring to a halt the WHO’s pernicious influence in areas like this. That task becomes more difficult with each passing day.

Originally published here.

Pesan Inovasi dari Peringatan Hari Vape Sedunia

Sejumlah aktivis dan ilmuwan dari berbagai belahan dunia menghadiri peringatan Hari Vape Sedunia pada 30 Mei 2021. Salah satu topik utama dalam pertemuan virtual ini adalah pentingnya pemahaman mengenai dampak positif inovasi produk nikotin, yang terdiri dari vape, tembakau yang dipanaskan (HTP), snus, dan kantong nikotin atau lebih dikenal di Indonesia dengan sebutan Hasil Pengolahan Tembakau Lainnya (HPTL). Produk-produk tersebut berpotensi lebih rendah risiko dan dapat membantu perokok untuk berhenti. Namun, kurangnya pemahaman para pembuat kebijakan akan produk-produk tersebut membuat perkembangannya melambat.

“Inovasi pada produk nikotin sudah terbukti memberikan dampak yang positif. Inovasi teknologi yang ada pada produk HPTL bersifat netral dan lahir dari kebutuhan pengguna akan alternatif produk tembakau yang lebih minim risiko. Sayangnya, terkadang hal ini belum didukung dengan regulasi yang sesuai, sehingga prosesnya terhambat,” kata Yael Ossowski, Wakil Direktur Consumer Choice Center.

Ossowski menambahkan, masih banyak pihak yang menganggap bahwa vape dan rokok konvensional merupakan hal yang sama. Ini merupakan salah satu alasan utama mengapa produk HPTL belum mendapatkan regulasi yang sesuai. Selain itu, temuan ilmiah masih belum dijadikan acuan utama dalam merumuskan kebijakan. 

Kondisi ini dinilai sangat disayangkan, di mana penelitian terkait produk HPTL saat ini semakin banyak dan berkembang. Profesor Bernd Mayer, Ahli Toksikologi dari University of Graz, Austria mengatakan “Berbagai penelitian sudah membuktikan bahwa vape lebih rendah risiko daripada rokok konvensional. Oleh karena itu, upaya mendorong para perokok untuk beralih ke produk alternatif merupakan hal yang tepat.”

Pada kesempatan yang sama, Cristiana Batista dari Asosiasi Vape Portugal (APORVAP) menjelaskan bahwa vape merupakan salah satu hasil penemuan terbesar karena dapat membantu perokok untuk berhenti. Menurutnya, inovasi ini harus disambut dengan insentif dari segi regulasi yang dapat membuat produk ini lebih berkembang dan berdampak positif. Batista menambahkan, “Saya sangat optimis dengan vape karena produk ini dapat membantu saya berhenti setelah menjadi perokok selama 16 tahun.”

Mendukung bukan menghentikan 

Forum turut mendiskusikan tentang pendekatan baru dalam mengontrol prevalensi merokok di sebuah populasi. Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) atau pengurangan dampak buruk tembakau adalah pendekatan yang menitikberatkan pada pentingnya memberikan alternatif yang lebih rendah risiko untuk para perokok. Untuk menerapkan pendekatan tersebut, pemerintah perlu mendukung produk-produk HPTL melalui berbagai instrumen regulasi. 

Sebaliknya, melarang produk-produk tersebut merupakan pilihan yang kurang tepat. Menurut Ethan Nadelmann, Pendiri dan mantan Direktur Eksekutif (2000–2017) Drug Policy Alliance menjelaskan bahwa pelarangan terhadap opsi-opsi alternatif yang rendah risiko justru dapat melahirkan konsekuensi-konsekuensi yang tidak diinginkan. “Ketika Anda melarang sesuatu, hal tersebut tidak membuatnya menghilang begitu saja, permintaan pasar akan tetap ada dan itu membuat jutaan orang kembali ke pasar gelap untuk mendapatkan apa yang mereka butuhkan,” tambah Nadelmann.

Originally published here.

Tantangan Membela Hak Pengguna Vape

Isu mengenai rokok elektronik, atau yang dikenal juga dengan vape, merupakan salah satu isu yang cukup kontroversial di berbagai negara di dunia, termasuk juga di Indonesia. Berbagai pihak memiliki pandangan yang sangat kontras dan jauh berbeda antara satu dengan yang lainnya.

Bagi sebagian pihak, vape atau rokok elektronik adalah hal yang sangat berbahaya, dan maka dari itu harus dilarang demi melindungi kesehatan publik. Di Indonesia misalnya, salah satu pihak yang mendukung adanya larangan tersebut adalah Ikatan Dokter Indonesia, atau IDI. IDI mengungkapkan, vape justru mengandung zat-zat berbahaya bagi kesehatan (mediaindonesia.com, 25/9/2019).

Kesehatan publik tidak bisa dipungkiri memang merupakan masalah besar di berbagai negara di dunia. Bila suatu negara memiliki jumlah populasi masyarakat yang sakit dengan angka yang tinggi, hal ini juga akan semakin meningkatkan beban negara untuk membiayai program kesehatan tersebut. Belum lagi, orang-orang yang dapat menggunakan tenaga dan pikiran yang mereka miliki untuk kegiatan-kegiatan yang produktif akan semakin berkurang.

Namun, melindungi kesehatan publik tidak semudah membalikkan telapak tangan, salah satunya dengan hanya melarang produk-produk tertentu yang dianggap berbahaya. Ada unintended consequences yang harus kita pikirkan masak-masak bila kita ingin mengambil kebijakan tersebut.

Hanya karena kita melarang suatu produk yang dianggap bisa membahayakan kesehatan, bukan berarti lantas kita dapat menghalangi seseorang untuk mendapatkan produk tersebut. Selain itu, hal lain yang tidak kalah pentingnya adalah, bila ada produk serupa yang jauh lebih berbahaya beredar di pasar daripada produk yang ingin dilarang, maka larangan tersebut berpotensi tidak memiliki dampak apapun, dan justru dapat menjadi kebijakan yang kontra produktif.

Berdasarkan laporan lembaga kesehatan publik Inggris, Public Health England (PHE) misalnya, rokok elektronik atau vape memiliki dampak 95% jauh lebih tidak berbahaya dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar. Secara ekspilist, bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional, maka resiko dari menggunakan rokok elektronik sangat kecil (theguardian.com, 28/12/2018).

Sangat penting ditekankan dalam hal ini bahwa, laporan PHE tersebut bukan berarti menyatakan bahwa vape atau rokok elektronik adalah produk yang sepenuhnya aman. 95% jauh lebih tidak berbahaya dan sama sekali tidak berbahaya adalah dua hal yang sangat berbeda.

Tetapi, berdasarkan laporan dari PHE, bila dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional yang dibakar, vape atau rokok elektronik jauh lebih aman. Dengan demikian, bila produk rokok elektronik dilarang, sementara rokok konvensional tetap dibolehkan, maka tentu aturan tersebut adalah sesuatu yang mengada-ada dan tidak akan memiliki dampak yang signifikan.

Tidak hanya itu, bila ada kebijakan pelarangan vape atau rokok elektronik, maka hal tersebut adalah bentuk pelanggaran hak terhadap seseorang untuk mendapatkan alternatif produk yang jauh lebih aman. Besar kemungkinan, mereka yang sebelumnya ingin mengkonsumsi produk vape, karena tidak bisa mendapatkan produk tersebut di pasar, bukannya justru mengurungkan keinginannya, tetapi justru beralih ke produk rokok konvensional yang jauh lebih berbahaya.

Inilah salah satu tantangan besar terkait dengan membela hak para pengguna vape di berbagai negara di dunia, salah satunya tentunya di Indonesia. Banyaknya kesalahpahaman terkait dengan vape atau legalisasi produk tersebut, merupakan salah satu penyebab dari potensi lahirnya berbagai aturan yang justru tidak produktif.

Hal ini diungkapkan juga oleh oleh Presiden World Vaper’s Alliance(WVA), Michael Landl. WVA sendiri merupakan organisasi internasional yang membela hak-hak para pengguna vape di seluruh dunia.

Dalam wawancara yang saya lakukan dengan Landl bulan Maret 2021 lalu, ia mengungkapkan bahwa banyaknya misinformasi dan “ideologi” anti vape yang berkembang di berbagai tempat merupakan tantangan terbesar dalam membela hak-hak pengguna vape di seluruh dunia, untuk mendapatkan produk yang relatif lebih aman. Hal ini merupakan hal yang tidak mudah, meskipun berdasarkan penelitian ilmiah vape merupakan produk yang jauh lebih aman dibandingkan dengan rokok konvensional (Landl, 2021).

Sebagai penutup, pentingnya legalisasi produk rokok elektronik bukan berarti mendukung bahwa seluruh anggota masyarakat untuk menggunakan rokok elektronik setiap hari. Hal ini adalah sesuatu yang penting, khususnya karena para perokok dapat menjadi terbantu untuk menghentikan kebiasaan mereka yang sangat berbahaya, dan beralih ke produk lain yang terbukti jauh lebih aman.

Efektifitas vape sebagai produk yang dapat membantu para perokok untuk menghentikan kebiasaan merokok mereka yang sangat berbahaya bagi kesehatan merupakan hal yang sudah terbukti di berbagai penelitian. National Health Service (NHS) Inggris misalnya, telah menyatakan bahwa menggunakan produk rokok elektronik dapat membantu para perokok untuk mengelola kecanduan mereka terhadap nikotin (nhs.uk, 29/3/2019).

Karena hak untuk mendapatkan kesempatan untuk menikmati kehidupan yang lebih sehat merupakan hak yang wajib dinikmati oleh setiap individu, dan harus dilindungi oleh pemerintah. Jangan sampai, karena ketidaktahuan, misinformasi, hingga idelogi yang kita miliki, kita merampas hak tersebut dari saudara-saudara kita.

Originally published here.

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