Thursday 6 April 2017

The FCTC's Global Regress Report

This week saw the publication of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control's (FCTC) Global Progress Report following their seventh Conference of the Parties (COP7) in November.

For those not familiar with COP7, it was an event where around a thousand grey, soulless, anti-smoking extremists from all over the world jetted to India on tax-funded expenses and - during the worst lung-choking smog that Delhi has seen for 17 years - spent two days discussing whether or not to ban e-cigs. I went along too out of morbid curiosity; you can read my account here.

The FCTC's report is exactly what we've come to expect from such a hideous, unaccountable and opaque insult to decency and tolerance. However, considering such an inordinate amount of time was spent at the conference agonising on whether to ban vaping outright, or simply handicap it to make absolutely sure it can never significantly threaten the sales of cigarettes, it's interesting to see how they describe this kind of "progress".

You see, considering even the most insane of tobacco controllers concede that e-cigs are less risky than smoking, and that some jusrisdictions are actively promoting vaping as a means of stopping smoking, an outsider would be hard pressed to recognise that seeing as the FCTC - an organisation that supposedly wishes smokers to quit smoking - employs language which suggests the very opposite.
There is an urgent need for Parties − with or without new and emerging tobacco products on the national market − to enact and enforce protective policies and regulations.
That's right. They see an "urgent" need to bring in policies which will "protect" against a device that has helped millions of people switch away from the tobacco that the FCTC loves to hate. They're pretty hot on it too, painstakingly recording what countries are doing to obstruct this new threat to tobacco control industry salaries.

Click to enlarge
For clarity, e-cigs are the bars on the right of that graph. ENDS stands for the deliberately clinical term Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices. It's worth noting here that it's laughable enough that e-cigs are included in a convention for tobacco control, but the accompanying acronym ENNDS is their classification of e-cigs which contain no nicotine at all. So removed from tobacco are ENNDS that it would be just as logical for the FCTC to suggest regulations on the global colour schemes of double decker buses!

The FCTC's report also singled out specific praise for the EU's wildly damaging Tobacco Products Directive (TPD) (emphases mine).
COP6 urged Parties to consider banning or restricting the advertising, promotion and sponsorship of ENDS. Significant progress in this area was made with the new tobacco products directive (TPD) of the European Union (2014/40/EU).  
The TPD noted that disparities between national laws and practices on advertising and sponsorship concerning electronic cigarettes present an obstacle to the free movement of goods and the freedom to provide services, and create an appreciable risk of competitive distortion. It was therefore necessary to approximate the national provisions on advertising and sponsorship of those products and to give them cross-border effect, ensuring a high level of protection for human health. This restrictive approach was adopted because of the potential risk of nicotine addiction as electronic cigarettes, like traditional cigarettes, normalized tobacco smoking.
It is quite incredible that, with millions of Europeans quitting smoking entirely using e-cigs, or considerably cutting their tobacco consumption, the FCTC considers it "significant progress" that a mountain of red tape has been unleashed on vaping, and a vat of treacle poured over the previously rapid innovation of a disruptive technology. But then, when you are such a bunch of swivel-eyed monomaniacs that you take it as a given that e-cigs 'normalise' smoking when they don't; and that restricting and demonising a pathway out of smoking is somehow 'protecting' health, I suppose the TPD perversely makes sense while nurse tucks you into your straitjacket for the night.

There is a big clue in the report's conclusions as to why the FCTC is concerned about such products, and it's almost Freudian in its make-up.
New and emerging tobacco products continue to spread and become essential elements of the tobacco-use landscape. This will have adverse consequences on tobacco control if policies do not progressively reflect their presence.
"Adverse consequences on tobacco control". Just digest that for a few moments. Not adverse consequences on smoking prevalence or public health, but on tobacco control, because it's quite clear that the industry is mightily threatened by smokers quitting without the help of their local neighbourhood, eye-wateringly salaried tobacco controller. Hence their eagerness to crowbar vaping into tobacco control policy areas wherever they can; the expense account, generous pension and top of the range BMW depends on it.
Comprehensive and concerted actions are needed with the participation of all concerned stakeholders to address such products, including through the development of specific policies to curb their use. 
Curb their use? Seeing as every survey of e-cigs users consistently tells a story of smokers wishing to give up tobacco or reduce the amount they smoke, why is a policy to "curb their use" even remotely consistent with what the FCTC stands for? Especially since harm reduction used to be one of the organisation's main pillars until they changed it to "demand reduction" once a threat to their livelihoods raised its ugly head.

I have to wonder where this leaves supposedly supportive types like Debs Arnott of ASH and Alette Addison of the Department of Health. They were in attendance in India and are apparently fully behind the UK government's entirely different stance on e-cigs. How can they possibly square that with endorsing an approach like this from the FCTC?

What's more, why are we throwing another £15 million at them and not threatening to leave such a basket case convention, instead financing them to spread the same barking lunacy elsewhere in the world?

Do you think it might not be about health after all? Hmm.  

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