Turkey Keeps Vape Ban and Satisfies WHO

    It’s nothing new for the WHO to encourage bans on alternatives to smoking

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    Turkey will maintain its ban on the sale and manufacture of vaping and heat-not-burn products, and the World Health Organization (WHO) is so delighted that it issued a press release applauding the country.

    In Turkey, 28.8 percent of all adults smoke cigarettes daily — more than double the rate of daily smoking in the U.S. and U.K., where e-cigarettes and other low-risk nicotine products are widely available.

    The WHO issued a press release to praise the authoritarian Turkish government for the move. Turkey had planned to relax its laws and allow vaping and heat-not-burn products, but changed its plans — probably due to pressure from the WHO. The press release describes “strong public reaction to the threats posed by the tobacco industry’s proposals to begin importing and producing heat-not-burn and ENDS products in the country.”

    Apparently those are the remarkable results the WHO wants to see.

    But the public reaction appears to be nothing more than WHO-organized public health drones complaining that their publicly funded world might get upset by the sale of low-risk alternatives to cigarettes. An October press conference saw “WHO and prominent academics and health specialists jointly voicing their condemnation of the tobacco industry’s proposed new strategy.”

    The “new strategy” the WHO decried is apparently the sale of reduced-risk products. Objections to smokers lowering (or maybe even eliminating) their risk by replacing inhaled smoke with vapor is more a matter of protecting the worldwide tobacco control industry than protecting the health of the public.

    Professor Hilal Özcebe, a professor at Hacettepe University, claimed that vapor and HNB products are as dangerous as smoking — an outright lie. “The tobacco industry states that electronic products have fewer negative effects on public health but this is a totally false argument,” she said, according to the press release.

    She added that “electronic devices have the same level of nicotine as widely used products [cigarettes], causing similar vascular disorders and cardiovascular diseases.” There is no evidence that nicotine causes long-term cardiovascular problems. But smoking does, and none of the Turkish “health advocates” are proposing a cigarette ban.

    For the WHO to allow such blatant misinformation to be spread without correction is an abdication of a commitment to public health — and its own guiding principles. “Informed opinion and active co-operation on the part of the public are of the utmost importance in the improvement of the health of the people,” says the WHO’s constitution.

    An official from the Turkish Green Crescent Society (a non-profit organization that exists to fight smoking, drinking, and other “addictions”) said that Turkey has engaged in “remarkable efforts” to implement the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC). This was done, he said, by “raising public awareness, with the support of the Turkish Government, civil society and organizations such as Green Crescent.”

    The remarkable success looks more like a concerted effort to protect cigarette sales. More than 43 percent of Turkish men smoke, along with 18.2 percent of women. Among 13-15 year olds, 16.8 percent use tobacco.

    Apparently those are the remarkable results the WHO wants to see. By encouraging vaping and snus bans, and discouraging tobacco companies from moving to reduced-risk products, the United Nations health agency is bound to get all the disease and death it could hope for.

    Jim McDonald
    Smokers created vaping without any help from the tobacco industry or anti-smoking crusaders, and vapers have the right to keep innovating to help themselves. My goal is to provide clear, honest information about the challenges vaping faces from lawmakers, regulators, and brokers of disinformation. I recently joined the CASAA board, but my opinions aren’t necessarily CASAA’s, and vice versa. You can find me on Twitter @whycherrywhy