Renowned experts in health sector have disclosed that eight million people worldwide die of tobacco annually and that 80% of the death is due to cigarette smoking.
Speaking yesterday at a two-day event in the UK tagged The E-Cigarette Summit, the experts revealed that cigarette smoking alone kills 20,000 people every single day.
In his keynote speech, Prof Robert Beaglehole, emeritus Professor, University of Auckland, New Zealand and Chair, ASH-Action for Smoke-free 2025, said the WHO needs to be at the forefront of tackling this huge death toll.
He said after listening to the personal stories of smokers and vapers, he was no longer advocating for a tobacco-free world but a smoke-free world, where the focus is on the harm from toxic burnt tobacco, and not from nicotine itself.
Prof Beaglehole however noted that the source of funding has been detrimental to the WHO because of Bloomberg’s personal prohibitionist approach.
He said where Mpower has been implemented, smoking rates have either only slowly declined or have risen.
The emeritus professor said the WHO, at least in the field of tobacco control, needs to mend its ways, as the most recent conference of the parties was characterised by a lack of transparency.
“The WHO’s chronic disease goals will only be reached if their tobacco reduction goals are strengthened”, he said.
Prof. Beaglehole emphasised that the missing ingredient in WHO strategy is harm reduction, adding that countries that have embraced harm reduction are rapidly reducing smoking rates.
He cited examples of Sweden and Japan that have achieved 30% reduction, noting that under the influence of Bloomberg, WHO has discouraged The Harm Reduction (THR) products”.
“Several countries that have banned them have been rewarded by the WHO even though smoking rates went on to increase, he lamented.
“We can take lessons from the Covid-19 pandemic – we need a coordinated global response with strong, independent evidence, science-based policy and transparent discussion of the risks and monitoring of progress,” he stressed.
In his contributions, the author of the recently released book, “Stop Smoking, Start Vaping”, Colin Mendelsohn, said most of the opposition to vaping were based not on evidence but underlining ideological issues, moral positions, vested interests as well as political and financial considerations.
According to him, aside the political risk, the antagonists derived some benefits from attacking tobacco companies and protecting children than ensuring vaping is available.
Mr. Mendelsohn argued that the debate was being swayed to focus on the children aspect despite the huge benefit of vaping to public health and the evidence that vaping is diverting children from smoking.
He said there is a problem of resistance to new technology even when there are substantial benefits (like in vaping).
The author also lamented that a combination of harsh laws on vaping and little enforcement have just served to create a black market.
“We can’t ignore the evidence of millions of vapers who have quit smoking. Testimonials aren’t scientific evidence but they do make up part of the evidence base and are consistent with the evidence we see”, he said.
Mr. Mendelsohn however admitted that it was hard for people to find accurate information about vaping because of the negative media and misinformation surrounding it.
He said the way out to change things especially in Australia, is to put pressure on politicians and create a social movement of vapers raising their heads to demand positive change for vaping.
“Politicians need to understand the benefits, rather than dwelling on the risks which are often theoretical and exaggerated,” Mendelsohn said.