The fight for vaping rights has gone global. A new international organization has launched to represent vaping consumers and other low-risk nicotine users.
The International Network of Nicotine Consumer Organizations (INNCO) began after a meeting of nicotine consumers and organizations at the Global Forum on Nicotine in Warsaw, Poland in June. The idea was to create a vehicle to engage the World Health Organization (WHO) on behalf of vapers and snus users.
INNCO is an alliance of nicotine consumer groups around the world. There are currently 19 member organizations, with more to join soon. In all, more than 20 million ex-smokers who now use low-risk nicotine products are represented.
Leading INNCO’s steering group is Judy Gibson from the U.K. “INNCO intends to be in the vanguard of a global harm reduction revolution,” she says in the network’s press release. “We are a conduit for the most influential nicotine consumer advocate organisations across the world but we also represent the disenfranchised; those who face state prosecution simply because they made an informed choice to stop inhaling deadly smoke and switch to something much safer.”
Responding to the WHO
INNCO launches just before the WHO’s tobacco control arm, the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) holds its seventh Conference of the Parties (COP7) in November in Delhi, India. The FCTC convenes every two years. The FCTC has been resolutely anti-harm reduction.
The WHO’s opposition to vaping began immediately after the first e-cigarettes were exported from China, and the document just released by the FCTC containing discussion points for this year’s meeting shows no hope for any sudden reversal of position.
“INNCO believes it is likely that the organisation will seek to entrench their prohibitionist stance yet further,” says INNCO’s press release. “The CoP7 agenda contains several proposals which, if enacted, would make it even harder for current users or smokers wishing to switch to access e-cigarettes, or use them in public places.”
The last meeting, in Moscow in 2014, was held in an atmosphere of extreme secrecy and even paranoia, as the Convention’s leadership decided to expel journalists and members of the public because of a supposed fear of tobacco industry influence. “INNCO worries the WHO has normalized secrecy, with the conference amounting to little more than a biennial lesson on how to avoid transparency,” says the press release.
INNCO has responded directly to the WHO, with a letter sent to Director General Margaret Chan and to the Secretariat of the FCTC. The network calls on the WHO to live up to its mandate to include harm reduction as a strategy for reducing the health burden of smoking. The FCTC has ignored the potential of low-risk nicotine alternatives, says INNCO.
Evidence of the transformative health effects of switching from smoking to safer nicotine products can be found in the testimonies of those who have experienced major improvements in many aspects of their lives. The rapid growth in the use of alternative products and new technologies has created a consumer-driven health revolution.
The WHO has a moral duty to acknowledge evidence which highlight the significant reduction in harm afforded by smokeless technologies (including snus). They should do so without prejudice, pressure or fear. Failure to do so will not only put people’s lives and health at IMMEDIATE risk, but also diminish the credibility of the organisation.
Note: the author of this article is a volunteer member of INNCO’s steering group.