Launch day was a huge success and a major step forward in the fight to gaining acceptance of tobacco harm reduction at the international level. The YouTube video link below will give you a taster of how it all went.
First thing on launch day, we decided to approach COP delegates on their way to their meeting to try and persuade them to make up their own minds about tobacco harm reduction and not be overly swayed by the hostile attitude of the WHO. What goes around, comes around. Two decades ago, in this very city, WHO staff were forbidden to attend an international drug harm reduction conference, not because there was no evidence base, but because in the minds of the WHO and their American paymasters, harm reduction was just a front for drug legalisation. Now in 2018, the WHO refuses to have anything to do with tobacco harm reduction believing it to be a front for Big Tobacco. This from the opening speech by Vera Luiza da Costa e Silva, Head of the WHO FCTC Secretariat.
“Parties should expedite implementation of article 5.3 Guidelines and ensure that its applicable to all commercial and vested interests of the tobacco industry, including addressing unproven claims of harm reduction”.
So it was very gratifying to see on the following day, how many COP delegates actually took copies of the report and in one case, came out and asked for more. We gave away about 200 reports.
During the day, press releases in several languages went out across the world. Below is just a sample of some of the coverage we attracted. Around 50 people came to the launch to hear the report project director Professor Gerry Stimson, Nancy Sutthoff from the main international vaping consumer organisation INNCO and myself introduce the report, outlining the content and emphasising its key messages which are enshrined in all international health treaties whose signatories are obliged to facilitate the right to health for all and enable all citizens to be empowered to make their own health and wellbeing choices.
It was thought that because the COP meeting was being held in a major European city and that FCTC Secretariat might be a bit more media savvy these days that there would not be the ritual expulsion of public and press as in previous meetings. Nope. In the spirit of professed openness and transparency (sic), the delegates spent 90 minutes of tax payers’ money debating whether or not to clear the public gallery. Thumbs up for the Canadians who objected; thumbs down to everyone else, although Iran and Iraq did find something they could actually agree on. Peace in the Middle East beckons. Actually, I think the delegates did our INNCO colleagues who were among those evicted a favour. Imagine having to sit through a week of stage-managed tedium.
The GSTHR website is now up and running, the centre piece of which is a global view of regulation and control. In the coming weeks, there will be access to an A-Z of country profiles detailing as much information as we have about the control of safer nicotine products in each country. This will be updated every time we receive new information either gleaned from our own sources or through the Update form on the website. We invite everybody to engage with the site and send us updates and corrections.