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Consumer body warns on ‘significant threats’ to vaping at WHO conference  

March 21, 2023

A sign of the World Health Organisation (WHO) at their headquarters in Geneva (Photo by FABRICE COFFRINI/AFP via Getty Images)

New Nicotine Alliance (NNA) UK has called on the consumers of reduced risk nicotine products and other stakeholders in tobacco harm reduction to act on ‘significant threats’ planned by the World Health Organization (WHO) later this year.

The advocacy group said issues like bans on all open system vaping products, all flavours except tobacco and on nicotine salts in vaping products and regulating products so that they are all exactly the same and restrict delivery of nicotine could be on the agenda of the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) Tenth Conference of the Parties (COP10), taking place on November 20 to 25 in Panama City.

The biennial event under the auspices of the FCTC treaty is attended by all 193 WHO member governments including the treaty’s 182 Parties (national delegations) to the Convention and other non-Party members accredited to the WHO.

Though the COP10 agenda is not yet published, the NNA said they have identified the likely issues to be discussed at the global conference based on the documents already published by the FCTC Secretariat and from previous COP meetings, and the eighth report of the WHO study group on tobacco product regulation.

The NNA added the UN health body is expected to demand countries around the world to treat vaping and heated tobacco products the same as combustible tobacco and taxation at the same rate as cigarettes, banning use where smoking is prohibited, large graphic health warnings, plain packaging, and a ban on all advertising, promotion and sponsorship.

“Although that seems a long way off, we must ACT NOW to get our voices heard. Plans for the meeting are already in progress and by the time the agenda is published in September it will be too late. Decisions will have been made, national delegates will have been selected, and countries – including the UK – will have discussed their policy positions for the event,” the non-for-profit said in a statement.

The UK is not only a signatory to the FCTC, but it is also a major funder of related activities.

“Decisions are made on consensus, not by voting, so if no objections are received the proposals will be approved. Parties who attend are expected to incorporate the decisions into their national laws. The treaty is legally binding so if a country does not abide by decisions at the meeting, political weight will be on politicians to do so because attendance is taken as agreement with the consensus,” the statement noted.

“The UK delegation to the conference, as with all other national delegations, is instructed by the country’s government which, in turn, is answerable to you, the electorate. To ensure that these threats are rejected in November, you must start writing now to express your concerns to your elected representatives and those involved in the COP10 process in the UK.”

The NNA suggested several measures including write to your MP and express your objections to these real threats.

“Tell them why the products are so important and why WHO threats must be resisted. Ask them to pass on your concerns to the government and insist the UK stands up for vaping and other non-combustible nicotine alternatives to smoking. The UK delegates may or may not have been selected already but ask your MP to enquire who is on the delegation so you can write to them,” the NNA noted.

The NNA also suggested to write to the FCTC focal point person in the UK, who passes information between the FCTC Bureau and the national government. The UK focal point is Alison Walker ([email protected]).