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Smoking bans don’t work – nor will cracking down on vape and cigarette sales

The World Health Organisation’s ‘Tobacco Free Initiative’ aims to speed up the gradual transition to a smoke-free world.

And yet, for some reason, it is also opposed to vaping, the safe alternative to smoking which is the best tool we have for helping people quit cigarettes.

It is clear, then, that the WHO doesn’t actually care about making us healthier. In reality, it just wants to accumulate more political control and centralise power over health policy.

Read the full article here

Why the WHO is wrong about vaping

The health institution’s anti-vaping approach set out in its latest report on the global tobacco pandemic is scientifically unjustified and will cost lives.

Last week, the World Health Organisation published yet another report which spreads fake news and false myths about vaping.  Despite the tool being recognised as 95 percent less harmful than conventional smoking, the WHO’s scientifically unjustified vaping witch-hunt could cost millions of lives.

Among the worn-out and debunked theories peddled by the WHO report ‘on the global tobacco epidemic 2021: New and Emerging Products’ is the so-called gateway effect theory, which suggests that vaping leads to smoking. This dangerous and misleading theory has long since been disproven by numerous studies, as well as nationwide case studies, such as in England where upwards of 50,000 smokers are using vapes as a gateway out of (not into) smoking every year.

“Rather than focus on the all-important goal of beating smoking, the WHO is turning its guns on vaping, the most powerful smoking cessation tool on the planet.”

Vaping has also proven to be more effective than other quitting tools. A 2019 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that vaping was twice as effective as nicotine-replacement products in helping smokers quit. Vape flavours – continuously demonised by the WHO – have also shown to be crucial in helping smokers quit. Vapers that use flavours are 2.3 times more likely to quit than those who use tobacco-flavoured e-cigarettes.

Besides being riddled with biased anti-vaping scaremongering and false claims, the entire direction of travel set out in the latest WHO report is nonsensical. Rather than focus on the all-important goal of beating smoking, the WHO is turning its guns on vaping, the most powerful smoking cessation tool on the planet.

They clearly find it more important to fall into line with the narrow-minded ‘quit or die’ approach trumpeted by the WHO’s billionaire sponsors, like Mike Bloomberg. The reality is that if the world follows the WHO’s lead, fewer smokers will quit and more will die as a consequence.

The WHO systematically ignores the wealth of scientific evidence pointing to the benefits of vaping, not to mention the first-hand experience of millions of vapers. Unfortunately, this anti-vaping approach has spill over effects to other jurisdictions – especially to low- and middle-income countries, but also the European Union.

For example, both Europe’s Beating Cancer Plan and a vape flavour ban in the Netherlands mirror the WHO recommendations – and are extremely dangerous for that reason. In 2007, nearly a quarter of the Dutch population smoked daily. That number went down to 16 percent in 2018 and continues to drop. However, with the new Dutch vape flavour ban in place, this positive trend might quickly reverse. According to newly published research by the Consumer Choice Center, the ban will drive over 250 thousand adults back to smoking.

“The weight of research and real-world evidence shows that progressive vaping policies can help 19 million European smokers to quit.”

The same is true for the EU Beating Cancer plan. Smoking-induced cancer claims nearly 700,000 lives each year in the EU. But instead of fostering life-saving innovation, the EU has opened the door to flavour bans and tax increases which would deprive millions of smokers of the opportunity to stop smoking once and for all. The weight of research and real-world evidence shows that progressive vaping policies can help 19 million European smokers to quit.

Restricting or banning access to vaping will do nothing but cost lives, and the WHO and the EU – both as a bloc and at member state levels – will soon learn this painful lesson if they keep ignoring science and consumers. 

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.

The global organizations and populists who aim to seize COVID vaccine tech and IP

When Donald Trump claimed in September 2020 that every American would have access to vaccines by April 2021, his comments received scorn. The Washington Post said his claims were “without evidence,” CNN quoted health experts who said it was impossible, and The New York Times claimed it would take another decade.

Now, a year into this pandemic, nearly half of the eligible population has received at least one vaccine dose in the U.S., and distribution has been opened to every American adult.

Operation Warp Speed, which invested tax dollars and helped reduce bureaucracy across the board, has contributed to what has truly been a miraculous effort by vaccine firms.

While Trump’s proclamations eventually become true and the question of vaccine ability has been settled, there is now pressure on the Biden administration to turn over domestic vaccine supply to countries with skyrocketing cases.

On Sunday, the U.S. declared it will send additional medical supplies to India, currently experiencing the largest global spike in cases.

But at international bodies, countries and activist groups are petitioning for far more: they want to force biotech companies to waive intellectual property rights on vaccines and COVID-related medical technology.

Along with nearly 100 other countries, India and South Africa are the architects of a motion at the World Trade Organization called a TRIPS Waiver (Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights).

If the waiver is triggered, it would ostensibly nullify IP protections on COVID vaccines, allowing other countries to copy the formulas developed by private vaccine firms to inoculate their populations and play into the hands of future governments more hostile to private innovation.

This week, U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai met with the heads of the various vaccine makers to discuss the proposal, but it is uncertain if the Biden administration will support the measure at the WTO.

While many companies have voluntarily pledged to sell them at cost or even offered to share information with other firms, this measure would have more far-reaching implications.

This coalition seeking the TRIPS waiver includes Doctors Without Borders, Human Rights Watch, and World Health Organization Secretary-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who first backed this effort in 2020 before any coronavirus vaccine was approved.

They claim that because COVID represents such a global threat and because western governments have poured billions in securing and helping produce vaccines, low and middle-income countries should be relieved of the burden of purchasing them.

Considering the specialized knowledge needed to develop these vaccines and the cold storage infrastructure required to distribute them, it seems implausible that any of this could be achieved outside the traditional procurement contracts we’ve seen in the European Union and the U.S.

That said, rather than celebrating the momentous innovation that has led to nearly a dozen globally-approved vaccines to fight a deadly pandemic in record time, these groups are trumpeting a populist message that pits so-called “rich” countries against poor ones.

Intellectual property rights are protections that help foster innovation and provide legal certainty to innovators so that they can profit from and fund their efforts. A weakening of IP rules would actively hurt the most vulnerable who depend on innovative medicines and vaccines.

If the cost of researching and producing a COVID vaccine is truly $1 billion as is claimed, with no guarantee of success, there are relatively few biotechnology or pharmaceutical companies that can stomach that cost.

BioNTech, the German company headed by the husband-wife team of Uğur Şahin and Özlem Türeci that partnered with Pfizer for trials and distribution of their mRNA vaccine, was originally founded to use mRNA to cure cancer.

Before the pandemic, they took on massive debt and scrambled to fund their research. Once the pandemic began, they pivoted their operations and produced one of the first mRNA COVID vaccines, which hundreds of millions of people have received.

With billions in sales to governments and millions in direct private investment, we can expect the now-flourishing BioNTech to be at the forefront of mRNA cancer research, which could give us a cure. The same is true of the many orphan and rare diseases that do not otherwise receive major funding.

Would this have been possible without intellectual property protections?

Moderna, for its part, has stated it will not enforce the IP rights on its mRNA vaccine and will hand over any research to those who can scale up production. The developers of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine have pledged to sell it at cost until the pandemic is over.

While this should smash the narrative presented by the populists and international organizations who wish to obliterate IP rights, instead they have doubled down, stating that these companies should hand over all research and development to countries that need them.

If we want to be able to confront and end this pandemic, we will continue to need innovation from both the vaccine makers and producers who make this possible. Granting a one-time waiver will create a precedent of nullifying IP rights for a host of other medicines, which would greatly endanger future innovation and millions of potential patients.

Especially in the face of morphing COVID variants, we need all incentives on the table to protect us against the next phase of the virus. 

Rather than seeking to tear them down those who have performed the miracle of quick, cheap, and effective vaccines, we should continue supporting their innovations by defending their intellectual property rights.

Yaël Ossowski (@YaelOss) is deputy director of the Consumer Choice Center, a global consumer advocacy group.

Like Greta Thunberg, the WHO values virtue-signaling over policy outcomes

Teenage climate protester Greta Thunberg seems to have grown bored of skipping school to hold up placards about the death of the planet. Last week, she found a new pet cause: “vaccine equity.” Addressing “governments, vaccine developers, and the world,” she joined forces with the World Health Organization to blast “rich countries” for offering their populations too many vaccine doses.

You might not think that the WHO and an 18-year-old Swedish eco-truant would have a great deal in common, but Thunberg and the WHO do share one passion: virtue-signaling. Both have a strong track record of issuing diktats to sovereign governments around the world and telling elected politicians what to do.

In Thunberg’s case, that led to the rise of the hard-left Extinction Rebellion group and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal, which has just been revived. In the case of the WHO, which is funded by nearly $5 billion over two years to safeguard our health, an unrelenting focus on virtue-signaling led to an appalling negligence of vital pandemic preparations, leading to the deaths of more than 3 million people from the coronavirus.

But the problems with the WHO began long before the first case of the coronavirus was detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Most fundamentally, it has lost sight of its purpose. It has enlarged its operations far beyond the reason it was created. For decades, the WHO has been quietly expanding its responsibility to include much more than health emergencies. It now routinely wastes time and money by interfering in domestic politics through regulatory interventions designed to change the way people live their lives.

When it should have been focusing on communicable diseases, the WHO was instead spending its time and vast resources campaigning on lifestyle issues — and flagrantly undermining the sovereignty of national governments in the process. From tobacco taxes to alcohol laws, from sugar and salt taxes to vaping restrictions, the WHO seems to greatly enjoy lecturing us about everyday indulgences and making it harder for us to access products we want.

The default position of statist bureaucrats who run unaccountable international governing bodies such as the WHO is to deny people the right to manage their own health and lifestyle, calling for effective harm reduction products to be banned and instead insisting on authoritarian measures such as mandatory health warnings, prohibition legislation, advertising bans, and excise taxes.

Half the time, the arbitrary positions adopted by the WHO (“you drink too much,” “salt is bad for you”) are factually incorrect. Take e-cigarettes, for example. Last year, the WHO laid the groundwork for its new vaping policy strategy with a briefing on its website, along with a splash of publicity. The problem was that the briefing seemed to contain a plethora of basic scientific errors. It was panned by experts in the field, leading the WHO to edit it quietly without telling anyone.

Even putting apparent scientific inaccuracies to one side, where does the WHO derive the legitimacy to tell us how to live our lives? Perhaps more importantly, what gives it the right to instruct democratic governments on domestic politics? Unlike Thunberg, the WHO cannot be dismissed with a photo opportunity or two. It demands action, even when it has no right to do so.

When President Donald Trump moved to withdraw the United States from the WHO last year, there was a great deal of squealing and squawking from people who apparently believe that the WHO provides citizens and governments with an invaluable service. New Jersey Democrat Sen. Bob Mendez of the Foreign Relations Committee said at the time that distancing from the WHO “leaves Americans sick and America alone.”

Besides cozying up to the Chinese Communist Party, it is unclear what service the WHO provides to America. Its leadership on COVID-19 has been nonexistent; the tragic 3 million deaths are evidence of that. Its interventions against harm-reduction policies are actively damaging to public health outcomes. If it is to justify its funding, the WHO must dispense with the Greta-esque virtue-signaling and instead refocus on positive health outcomes, especially on communicable diseases, which is where international guidance is truly needed.

Originally published here.

After Covid disaster surely game’s up for pitiable World Health Organizaton COMMENT

SINCE the first case of Covid was detected in Wuhan in December 2019, the coronavirus has infected more than 130 million people across the world, killing almost three million.

Many thousands of words have been written about the failures of local health authorities like Public Health England in preparing us for a pandemic, but perhaps the most important body of all has still not been properly held to account: the World Health Organization. Before 2020, most Brits probably didn’t know very much, if anything, about the WHO. It’s an arm of the United Nations, like the International Monetary Fund or the World Trade Organization, spending most of its time working away in the background to safeguard against health emergencies, leaving the rest of us to get on with our lives.

Except, of course, as we have now learned, the WHO was wilfully neglecting its duties and generally doing a terrible job, at enormous cost.

The WHO was wildly unprepared for the pandemic – with tragic consequences – because it spent much of its time playing politics rather than serving its purpose.

It failed to do any of the things it should have done when the virus first broke out, even those as fundamental as being transparent about what was going on.

It wasted valuable time before declaring a pandemic. It cosied up to China rather than tracing the origin of the virus. It issued actively harmful advice against masks.

Put simply, it is hard to imagine how a well-funded body charged with protecting people’s health could possibly have performed any worse.

Even putting aside its appallingly close political relationship with the dictatorial, genocidal Chinese Communist Party, the WHO failed to perform its most basic function, tripping up at every hurdle.

If the world had been better prepared, perhaps Covid would not have resulted in the unnecessary deaths of millions of people.

The WHO has form when it comes to mishandling epidemics. During the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic, and again during the 2014 Ebola outbreak, it came in for widespread criticism.

One of the factors singled out as a cause of its mismanagement of these crises was an aversion to offending member states, in exactly the same way that it is now loath to offend China.

There’s no reason why these awful failures should be the new normal. In the 20th century, the WHO was effectively responsible for eradicating smallpox. But since then, things seem to have gone drastically downhill.

The WHO has patently failed to adequately address the scourge of anti-vaxxers leading to diseases like measles, which were all but eradicated, but which are now making a comeback around the world.

The WHO also received widespread criticism from animal conservation groups for recognising traditional Chinese medicine in its international guidelines after lobbying by Beijing, despite its role in driving the illegal trade and poaching of endangered species including pangolins and tigers — a trade that might ironically have contributed to the coronavirus’s outbreak in the first place.

The problems with the WHO run deep. It should not have taken a once-in-a-generation health disaster to expose them.

It’s time to ask some existential and probing questions. What is the WHO? What is it for? Where are its vast funds coming from? At the moment, it is trying to pretend it is both a humble, do-gooder charity which just has our best interests at heart and an all-powerful supranational organisation. It wants to be the undisputed centre of power for healthcare around the world, but without ever being held accountable for its actions. If the WHO is a charity, it should not be playing politics and cosying up to dictatorial regimes. If it’s not a charity, it must be subject to proper democratic oversight.

The WHO has not expressed any hint of remorse over its failures. There is no reason to think it is going to voluntarily change the way it operates. It’s high time for the rest of us to stand up to it and demand some answers.

Originally published here.

The Philippine Government’s Attack On Breast Milk Substitutes

Be it sin taxes, vaccine procurement bans, or various marketing bans, the underlying goal behind such interventions is to prevent consumers from making certain choices and scapegoat the supply side.

The pandemic has intensified some governments’ pursuit of even more control over our lives, and access to vaccines has been used as a tool to take revenge on businesses seen as a threat to public health. An odious draft private sector vaccine procurement ban in the Philippines is a great example of how far policymakers can go if allowed to push their paternalistic agenda.

The proposed prohibition states that the Filipino National Task Force (NFT) and Department of Health (DOH) would review all requests from private companies who wish to procure vaccines and ensure these businesses are not “related to the tobacco industry, products covered by the National Code of Marketing of breast milk substitutes, breast milk supplement and other related products or other products in conflict with public health.”

Although fortunately, the ban was dropped by the Philippine government in the end, the fact that such ideas have a place in a world crippled by the pandemic is alarming. The rollout of vaccines has given us a chance to revitalize global prosperity and attempts to block those efforts by channeling the nanny state endanger our global wellbeing. As of March 31st, only 0.67% of Filipinos were vaccinated compared to 60.60% in Israel. The unethical paternalism that lies at the core of the proposed Philippine government ban would have slowed down the vaccine rollout even more.

Be it sin taxes, vaccine procurement bans, or various marketing bans, the underlying goal behind such interventions is to prevent consumers from making certain choices and scapegoat the supply side. Moreover, most of the time, the origin of these restrictions can be traced back to the World Health Organization’s recommendations.

The said ban demonstrates this very explicitly: it targeted breast milk substitutes for a reason. In August 2020, Francisco Tiongson Duque III, the Philippines Health Secretary, called on Filipino women with suspected and/or confirmed COVID-19 to continue breastfeeding. The secretary’s rhetoric mirrors that of the WHO and UNICEF, who stressed the importance of remaining committed to exclusive breastfeeding even during the pandemic.

The WHO’s witch hunt after breastmilk substitutes is hardly new. In March 2020, together with UNICEF and the International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), the WHO urged countries to ban the promotion of breast milk substitutes, including advertising and distribution of free samples while also pressing women to continue breastfeeding.

In a piece I wrote last year, I argued that, while the WHO deserves praise for drawing attention to the important issue of breastfeeding, pressuring women to continue to breastfeed during the COVID-19 pandemic while at the same time denying them information on alternatives is inhumane. Our lifestyle freedoms are fragile and hence easy targets for the WHO and alike interventions.

It is not the job of the government to decide how to breastfeed, and neither is it to prevent businesses it simply doesn’t like from getting the COVID vaccine. The Philippines’ draft ban is a lesson in how far the nanny state can go. As we move forward, it is crucial to remember that if it weren’t for the WHO’s covering up of China’s lies about the pandemic, we wouldn’t be spending our days in lockdowns, and thousands of deaths would have been avoided. As such, the WHO is hardly the best source of advice on breastfeeding and lifestyle freedoms.

Originally published here.

14 розвинутих країн розкритикували Всесвітню організацію охорони здоров’я

Цього разу ВООЗ критикують через сумнівний звіт щодо походження коронавірусу. Але експерти також зауважують: ВООЗ “збилася з дороги” – замість протидії пандеміям організація все більш займається боротьбою з дитячими кашами, солодкими газованими напоями і тютюновими виробами.

США, Велика Британія та ще 12 країн висловили занепокоєння через доповідь експертів Всесвітньої організації охорони здоров’я (ВООЗ) щодо походження коронавірусу.

Про це повідомляє прес-служба Державного департаменту США.

Уряди Австралії, Канади, Чехії, Данії, Естонії, Ізраїлю, Японії, Латвії, Литви, Норвегії, Республіки Корея, Словенії, Великої Британії та США розкритикували Всесвітню організацію охорони здоров’я за те, що міжнародне експертне  дослідження джерел походження вірусу SARS-CoV-2 «було значно затримано, не мало доступу до повних, оригінальних даних та зразків».

Речниця Білого дому Джен Псакі закликала ВООЗ активніше «ставити питання людям на місцях»: «У цьому процесі є другий етап, який, на нашу думку, повинен здійснюватися під керівництвом міжнародних і незалежних експертів. У них повинен бути безперешкодний доступ до даних».

Держави закликають ВООЗ продовжити дослідження та наголошують, що необхідно зміцнювати «потенціал, аби підготуватися до можливих майбутніх спалахів інфекції».

Нагадаємо, це не перший випадок критики на адресу Всесвітньої організації охорони здоров’я. Минулого року за попередньої адміністрації США навіть оголошували про вихід з цієї міжнародної організації через її неефективність.

Як повідомляв Wall StreetJournal, «з самого початку позиція ВООЗ дозволила політичним міркуванням взяти гору над об’єктивною реакцією громадської охорони здоров’я. Рішення виступити проти ранніх заборон на поїздки і відкласти оголошення «надзвичайної ситуації у сфері охорони здоров’я, що має міжнародне значення», призвело до жахливих результатів».

Більше того, на думку оглядачів Wall Street Journal, «в останні десятиріччя ВООЗ менш зосереджена на своїй первісній місії, вона даремно витрачає гроші на підтримку державної охорони здоров’я та на війни з тютюновими компаніями».

New York Times цитує старшого наукового співробітника Центру безпеки охорони здоров’я ім. Джона Хопкінса, доктора Амеша Адалжа, який заявив, що «є підстави для критики Всесвітньої організації охорони здоров’я». Він навів приклад попередньої епідемії Еболи, коли ВООЗ не змогла оперативно зреагувати на надзвичайну ситуацію. 

Британська Guardian також нагадувала про вкрай незадовільну реакцію ВООЗ на епідемію еболи в 2013-2015 рр. «ВООЗ вкрай повільно реагувала на спалах Еболи, який почався у віддаленій лісовій частині Гвінеї. На той час, коли ВООЗ почала діяти – лише через6 місяців після першого спалаху –  ебола вже досягла великих міст. Наслідки для ВООЗ були серйозними та підірвали її авторитет».

Заступник директора глобальної групи захисту прав споживачів Consumer Choice Center Єль Островський у своїй статті для Washington Examiner частину провини за зниження ефективності ВООЗ покладає на приватні фонди (передовсім, на фінансові організації екс-мера Нью-Йорка Майкла Блумберга), які своїм фінансуванням впливають на напрямки роботи організації.

«ВООЗ збилася з дороги. Замість того, аби організовувати роботу із покращення обладнання для лікарень, підготовки лікарів і всієї системи охорони здоров’я до можливих нових епідемій, «глибокі кишені» Блумберга перетворили ВООЗ на глобального «поліцейського» для країн, що розвиваються, – проти дитячих каш, солодких газованих напоїв і тютюнових виробів», – впевнений Єль Островський.

Originally published here.

Michael Bloomberg turns the dial on Indian health policy

By Shrey Madaan

Large sodas, alcohol, vaping devices and the Internet are just a few of the things the World Health Organization wants to keep us away from.

Lawmakers say it is safeguarding its subjects from evil elements in order to protect them. But many critics also believe Indian sensibilities are composed of graver stuff and are concerned about India’s transition to a “Nanny State”.

The Nanny State is the idea of a government or authorities behaving too protective for their constituents, i.e interfering with their personal choice and hindering their liberty and right to life. 

This is something we have seen Bloomberg Philanthropies try to establish here in India. For years, Bloomberg Philanthropies has bestowed billions of dollars to global issues close to the billionaire’s heart such as education, environment and public health, transforming Bloomberg into a sort of flamboyant private government. 

This is evident when he began the Anti-Tobacco Campaign in India, causing a drastic boom on tobacco products, laying a strong foundation for intellectual precision on imposing bans on vaping devices and persuading the Health Ministry to adopt larger health warnings on various consumer goods

Thanks to his Nanny State mission, Michael Bloomberg was named as World Health Organisation’s “Global Ambassador For Non-communicable Diseases and Injuries,” a mission funded by himself for many years.

While it’s noteworthy to appreciate Bloomberg’s recent expenditures into Covid-19 research, his prolonged mission to spread the nanny state overseas via the soft power of the WHO is not only paternalistic but derogatory as well. This emphasis on soft power and negligence towards substantive reforms highlights the inefficiency of WHO. 

Their focus on soft power is evident from foisting soda taxes, imposing bans on e-cigarettes and vaping devices in third world countries and initiating Anti-Tobacco campaigns like here in India. Because the WHO and Bloomberg put so much emphasis on these various issues, it is not too difficult to draw a line between those activities and the failure of the WHO to help contain the initial outbreak of COVID-19 in China. 

These lapses in Covid response, together with WHO detracting from its mission to safeguard us from pandemics, is a principal reason for opposing the global Nanny State expansion by people like Bloomberg. The recent channelling of funds into Indian non-profit agencies in exchange for a strong lobby against tobacco products and safer alternatives have called the credibility of Billionaire’s influence in question and has brought them under scrutiny. 

In response, the Indian government increased surveillance of non-profit groups, stating their actions to be against national interests. The Indian government tightened the scrutiny of NGOs registered under the Foreign Contribution Regulation Act (FCRA). The action has been opposed by critics claiming the use of foreign funding law by the government as a weapon to suppress non-profit groups concerned about social repercussions of Indian economic growth. 

The note drafted by the Home Ministry’s Intelligence wing raised concerns about targeting Indian businesses and its aggressive lobby against them. The three-page note acknowledged Bloomberg’s intention to free India from tobacco and other products but also elaborated upon the significance of the sector bringing revenue of 5 billion dollars annually for the governments, and employment generated for millions. The note also highlighted the negative implications of aggressive lobby against the sector and how it threatens the livelihood of 35 million people. 

The steps to promoting soft power Nanny State are not only appreciated but are aided by WHO. That is where WHO is pushing us into the abyss. Instead of providing doctors and health care workers with necessary supplies and honing the health care systems, the opulence of Bloomberg has commissioned the WHO as a “Global Police” enforcing taxes and bans on a plethora of consumer products around the world. 

Bloomberg’s Nanny Missions emerged as a grim threat to the health care sector, making the current pandemic more threatening. Let us hope we do not feel the repercussions here at home. 

Originally published here.

Narcos 3.0: Mexico declares War on Vaping and repeats old prohibitionists mistakes

When Mexico’s far-left President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (or short AMLO) ran for office in 2018, he and his platform promised an end to the decade-long war on drugs in Mexico. He acknowledged that prohibitionist policies cause more harm than they do good. Ironically that same President issued a surprise presidential decree on February 19 banning the import of e-cigarettes, vapes, and heated tobacco products. The order even forbids the import of nicotine-free vaping liquids.

AMLO declared the War on Vaping

The Presidential decree relies heavily on scare tactics, invoking the U.S. “vaping crisis” to justify Mexico’s ban. But even the U.S. CDC and AMLO’s decree concede the “vaping crisis” was actually caused by illicit black market vaping liquids. Pushing Mexican vapers to the black market will exactly cause what the order claims it is trying to prevent: more lung diseases.

Even before this decree, Mexico had opaque vaping regulations, that had to be clarified by a supreme court ruling and allowed at least certain manufacturers to sell e-cigarettes to the country’s roughly 1.2 million vapers.

These vapers are now being left alone with no access to nicotine products that are less harmful than conventional cigarettes, and that in times of lockdowns and people spending most of their week at home thanks to COVID. Two scenarios are most likely to happen if the decree does not get annulled:

  • Narcos 3.0: Mexico has a well developed black market for illicit substances, and, as regular Netflix viewers know, it serves as a massive transit hub for the global drug trade. It wouldn’t take much for organized crime to either smuggle legal vaping products from neighboring countries into Mexico and sell them on the black market or (even more concerning) sell counterfeited vaping liquids to Mexican vapers. The vaping crisis in the United States, which the Presidential decree instrumentalizes for its ban, was caused by illicit black market vaping liquids. Pushing Mexican vapers to the black market will exactly cause what the order tried to prevent: More lung diseases. 
  • Back to the ciggie: Even is the more dramatic scenario of a booming vaping black market might not come true (mainly due to the low margins on nicotine products compared to Cannabis or Cocaine), we would still see over a million vapers left behind. It is more likely that most of them will switch back to smoking regular cigarettes instead of switching to nicotine patches or entirely quit. That, in turn, would also lead to worse public health outputs.

We can see that AMLO’s decree will have serious, negative unintended consequences contrary to its own objectives.

Perhaps the most concerning is that the World Health Organization lauded Mexico’s vaping ban as a public health achievement, it fails to recognize that Mexico’s anti-vape stance will keep smokers and nicotine consumers locked in with combustible cigarettes. This policy deprives them of the choice to switch to the 95% less harmful vapes. The Consumer Choice Center’s interactive vaping map shows that up to 3.3 million additional Mexican smokers could switch to vaping if the government would emulate the UK’s progressive and science-based vaping laws.

Better vaping policies could help millions of Mexicans

So instead of cracking further down on vaping, Mexico should embrace tobacco harm reduction. Due to COVID and the parliamentary schedule, the Mexican Congress is currently out of session. Still, there is a window for legislative action when Congress returns to operation in the fall.

Consumer groups, vaping advocates, and the scientific community need to use this window of opportunity to explain more Mexican politicians and regulators the benefits of vaping and help busting myths around the United States’ vaping crisis. Initial protests against this misguided decree started already in March. This multi-lingual paper on the Myths and Facts on Vaping, written by my colleagues Yael Ossowski and Bill Wirtz explains the reasons behind the perceived vaping crisis in the US and is also available in Spanish. Probably an essential message in this paper for politicians is this one:

MYTH #3: VAPING IS THE CAUSE OF RECENTLY REPORTED RESPIRATORY ILLNESSES

Much cause for concern of late has been a flurry of reports of illness and hospitalizations blamed on traditional vaping devices and liquids. The CDC has reported nearly 380 cases of lung illnesses related to vaping. Sensational headlines and opinion articles have convinced leaders in several states and even President Donald Trump to consider banning vaping flavors outright.

But careful analysis of the reported cases reveals that a vast majority of the patients with symptoms were found to have used illicit vape cartridges mixed with the cannabis compound THC. 

A study in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined cases in Illinois and Wisconsin found that 84% of hospitalized patients report using illicit THC vaping cartridges prior to their illness. No illnesses have yet been tied to store-bought vaping pods or liquids containing nicotine.

To that end, two Wisconsin brothers were recently arrested in connection with a multi-million dollar operation that mixed various chemicals (including Vitamin E) with THC in cartridges meant for vaping devices, which they then sold illegally. Authorities have identified this large scheme spread across much of the Midwest as a culprit in the recent lung illnesses there.

What this reveals is that illicit vaping products sold on black markets, rather than licensed retailers, have actually caused the most severe of the lung illnesses reported in the media. 

As such, a ban on regulated devices and liquids, whether with flavors or not, would not address the problem as it currently exists.

By pushing vaping into the black market and Mexican vapers going back to the cigarette, AMLO will (despite the thunderous applause from the World Health Organization) further weaken Mexico’s public health outputs. If he is passionate about fighting lung diseases he should make access to legal and safe ways of consuming nicotine easier and not harder. Everything else is just a stimulus program for organized crime and lung specialists.

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