Scientists confront WHO's stance on alternative smoking cessation devices
Specialists in favour of measures to reduce harm caused by tobacco useWednesday, July 21, 2021
MEMBERS of the Anglo-Saxon scientific community questioned the World Health Organization (WHO) for its negative and opposed stance towards non-combustible alternatives (NCAs), which is said to be a proven alternative that reduces the use of traditional cigarettes and motivates people to quit smoking.
On May 31 of this year, the WHO published a statement on its tobacco policy, which starts from the proposal: “To really help tobacco users to quit it is necessary to support them with policies and proven interventions to reduce the demand for tobacco,” a release said yesterday.
Specialists such as David B Abrams and Raymond S Niaura, from the New York University School of Global Public Health, and Clive D Bates, director of Counterfactual, a consultancy firm in sustainability and public health, from London, among others, showed their position in a letter sent to the WHO.
They consider that the approach of the international health authority does not consider a fundamental aspect: Almost the entire global burden of tobacco-related deaths and diseases is caused by inhalation or exposure to smoke, the release said.
Specialists explain that it has been scientifically proven that cigarette smoke is where the most toxic substances are found, and effectively the alternative devices — the electronic cigarette and the vapers — are options developed by science to have the experience of smoking, but without suffering the harmful effects of smoke.
The WHO also stated that “e-cigarettes generate toxic chemicals, which have been linked to harmful health effects”, to which Abrams, Niaura, Bates, and others replied that the presence of a chemical does not necessarily make it dangerous.
As part of the WHO statement, shared on the international day of the fight against smoking addiction, it rejects new devices as an alternative to smoking and as an effective method to stop smoking. Furthermore, it denies its value, stating that the scientific evidence in this regard is inconclusive, the release said.
The scientists who signed the letter response say that there is abundant evidence that the use of these NCAs is an effective alternative to smoking cessation, providing the sources of the studies.
“It means that smokers change their behaviour and opt for new NCAs alternatives to avoid greater health risk.”
For this scientific community, the WHO has failed to understand what has been a significant technological transition, developed by the industry, and is instead trying to block it. Since 2014, WHO's input has been totally negative, supporting, and applauding bans on lower-risk alternatives, the release said.
The communication ends by saying that “if the WHO wants to make a difference, it must focus on the prevention of 'smoking'. NCAs and nicotine products displace cigarettes, and they are part of the solution, not part of the problem”, the release said.
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