In May, the Icelandic pro-vaping coalition Veipum Lifum (VL) held a conference in Reykjavik. On their website, they included a link to the WHO FCTC as well as links to the Icelandic Parliament and an article in Icelandic media both of which also carried the WHO logo. On 18th August VL received a letter from the legal unit of the WHO Regional Office for Europe threatening legal action stating that they had not given permission for the logo to be used especially as placing it on the VL website suggested that the WHO endorsed the use of e-cigarettes. The WHO demanded that the logo be removed not only from the VL website, but also from the other locations over which of course, VL had no control. The letter also said that examples of ‘misuse’ of the logo were attached which they were not.
To read the letter in full, click here.
The letter was dated 4th August, but only reached VL on 18th, the day before the 14-day threat period expired. On behalf of VL, Dr Karl Snaebjornsson wrote back on the same day asking for some clarification especially on the issue of the missing attachments. No reply.
Karl wrote again, having removed the offending logo from the VL website
“Thank you for your answer [sic] and hope you liked our new logo with link now to a clip from Disney’s “WHO´s afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” which we put instead of a link to WHO FCTC we removed from our homepage. But there were also some insinuations in your letter about Veipum Lifum as a seller or as one having any financial contacts with e-cigarettes producers or tobacco products which is totally wrong. Just to make that clear for you once more we have no connection to producers or sellers of e-cigs or any tobacco products.
This homepage was dedicated to stop smoking alternative by e-cigarettes, this time, we could as well had or recommended NRTs or snus or any other alternative of smokeless tobacco and no-tobacco alternatives as e-cigarettes. It’s not the nicotine that kills, it’s the smoke as you hopefully already understand.
Also, just to remind you that e-cigarettes are not tobacco and health results are the same when people stop smoking by way of e-cigarettes as there is by stop smoking by NRTs or other nicotine alternatives, even by smokeless tobacco named snus (Swedish smokeless).
I know WHO FCTC is against e-cigs instead of smoking, a huge difference in harm and concerning the use of undermining WHO is seriously undermining its own reputation by wrong policy on that. We also know the science behind WHO FCTC decision which is seriously lacking in facts with harmful consequences towards so many people. This policy from WHO FCTC has to change and while WHO does not change we cannot see that WHO takes the matter seriously, instead with harmful and deadly consequences.
Concerning the article in Kvennabladid it is not of our concern as is your request to move the WHO logo from the files from the Parliament of Iceland. You will have to deal with them yourselves”.
Karl also challenged the WHO assertion that it was illegal to use the logo without permission. He sought clarification from GFN Director Professor Gerry Stimson. The WHO emblem is protected under the Paris Convention on the Protection of Industrial Property, but says Gerry “fair use of another's logo is recognised for the purpose of description and identification and or to educate inform or express an opinion.” In this case, VL was actually referring people to the FCTC, which the WHO can hardly claim as ‘damaging’ its reputation.
The WHO replied as follows:
We would like to thank you for removing the WHO name and emblem from the homepage of your organization.
Yes, your understanding is correct, World Health Organization does not allow the use of name, emblem, and any abbreviation thereof in any manner without prior authorization of the WHO Director-General. We note from our records that the WHO has never granted permission to the interest group Veipum Lifum to use the WHO name or emblem for any purpose.
Moreover, please be advised that WHO does not recommend the use of e-cigarettes and therefore strongly disagrees to be associated with the promotion of e-cigarettes or other related products. Such association is damaging WHO’s reputation and undermines the work of the Organization against tobacco products. We therefore take the matter very seriously.
With regards to the article in the Icelandic newspaper, we thank you for clarification and we will make sure the WHO name to be removed from the article too.
As with drug harm reduction, it may well be that in time to come, as the evidence builds, the WHO will no longer feel that its reputation is being ‘damaged’ by an association with new nicotine products. But the idea that it has a reputation to protect looked like a sick joke, when hours after the last letter was sent, the WHO announced that Robert Mugabe was to be appointed a public health ‘goodwill ambassador’. This is the same Robert Mugabe who has presided over a collapse of the Zimbabwean health care system which included a devastating outbreak of cholera in 2008-09. There was such international disgust at the appointment, that the WHO was forced into a very rapid U-turn after ‘consultations’. It should have been obvious from the outset that such as appointment would be controversial. Whatever backstage political expediency was at play here, it is clearly now in the toilet.
Onto happier matters. This very important statement from the New Zealand Ministry of Health
“The Ministry of Health believes e-cigarettes have the potential to make a contribution to the Smokefree 2025 goal and could disrupt the significant inequities that are present”.
- The best thing smokers can do for their health is to quit smoking for good
- E-cigarettes are intended for smokers only
- The Ministry believes e-cigarettes could disrupt inequities and contribute to Smokefree 2025
- The evidence on e-cigarettes indicates they carry much less risk than smoking cigarettes but are not risk free
- The Cochrane Review found that e-cigarettes can help people to quit smoking, but acknowledges that the evidence is weak due to little data
- Smokers who have tried other methods of quitting without success could be encouraged to try e-cigarettes to stop smoking. Stop smoking services should support smokers using e-cigarettes to quit
- There is no international evidence that e-cigarettes are undermining the long-term decline in cigarette smoking among adults and youth, and may in fact be contributing to it
- Despite some experimentation with e-cigarettes among never smokers, e-cigarettes are attracting very few people who have never smoked into regular e-cigarette use
- When used as intended, e-cigarettes pose no risk of nicotine poisoning to users, but e-liquids should be in child resistant packaging
- The Ministry of Health is identifying safety standards for e-cigarettes in New Zealand. In the meantime, vapers should buy their products from a reputable source like specialist retailers.
In response to Derek Yach’s article on the Foundation, The Lancet responded in the way you might expect, although it did concede,
“Simply boycotting the Foundation, as WHO suggests, is a mistake. As unpalatable as it may seem to engage with the tobacco industry, the public health community should be open to dialogue and debate with all parties, including holding Yach and the Foundation accountable for their promises and commitments. Only then, will we beat the tobacco scourge and help to prevent the projected 1 billion deaths attributable to smoking this century.”
Riccardo Polosa’s discussion about the counter-productive approach of barring tobacco industry research on reduced risk products from certain science journals. His key point is that all research should be held up for proper peer-review scrutiny
These two items are linked in that if the tobacco industry is to be held to account for the activities of the Foundation and the research the industry in general is conducting, then it makes no sense to shun these activities and to deny the industry a platform for peer review.
To coincide with Public Health England’s Stoptober campaign, BAT commissioned a national survey of former smokers which revealed that 33% of former smokers found e-cigarettes were the most effective method for giving up. The research also found that there is still a lack of public awareness around e-cigarettes. Amongst the smokers surveyed, only 52% said they viewed vaping as less harmful than smoking. And only a quarter of the general public said they would recommend vaping products to a smoker looking to quit.
Further findings from the study:
- 61% of the general public believe vaping is socially acceptable, but this rises to 68% amongst 18 to 34 year olds.
- When asked about Stoptober 2017, 26% of smokers who were aware of the campaign said they planned to try and quit. 34% of smokers are intending to use, or are aware of others planning to use, e-cigarettes to try and quit as part of the campaign – this was higher than other nicotine products such as nicotine patches, nicotine chewing gum and nicotine inhalers.
- When asking smokers about Stoptober 2017, 47% recall the message that “stop smoking for 28 days and you are 5 times more likely to quit for good”; 11% recall the message that e-cigarettes are a great way to combat nicotine cravings; 9% recall the message that the NHS supports e-cigs as a way to stop; and 8% recall that they carry a fraction of the risk of smoking.
Interesting article from Korea highlighted by Clive Bates. In the main it is anti-vaping and recommends strict controls, but also showed the importance of the flavour issue. If I am reading this right, if you want to promote e-cigarettes as a harm reduction intervention, banning flavours makes no sense.
Based on the results of this study, the government should conduct studies on the effects of the combined use of NTTPs [new types of tobacco products] and cigarettes on the human body, obtain and provide accurate data regarding NTTP use, and develop and implement polices to ban NTTP advertising, which may arouse adolescents’ curiosity, and the addition of flavoring substances to tobacco products.
The common reason why the [focus group] participants in all groups kept using NTTPs was ‘good flavor.’ They also answered that they continued using NTTPs because NTTPs offered more diverse and unique flavors than conventional cigarettes.