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Global THR advocates criticise WHO’s exclusionary tactics at COP10

The Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (CAPHRA) issued a sharp critique 24 January 2024 of the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (WHO FCTC) for its exclusion of consumer groups and harm reduction advocates from the Tenth Session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10).

“CAPHRA argues that this exclusionary practice is in stark contrast to the successful, pragmatic approaches of countries like New Zealand, the Philippines, and Malaysia, which have embraced vaping as a harm reduction tool,” said Nancy Loucas, a public health policy expert and passionate advocate for tobacco harm reduction and executive coordinator of CAPHRA.

The press release condemns the WHO FCTC’s COP10 meetings for silencing the voices of those who advocate for harm reduction strategies, such as vaping, which have been shown to significantly reduce smoking prevalence in countries where they are available and regulated.

CAPHRA points out that the prohibitionist approach of countries like Australia, which recently banned vaping products, is not in the best interest of public health.

“CAPHRA calls on FCTC officials to open their minds to harm reduction and to consider the evidence from countries like New Zealand, where smoking rates have decreased due to the availability of regulated vaping products,” said Ms Loucas.

The organisation stresses the importance of including consumer groups in the decision-making process, as they provide essential insights into the needs of smokers and how alternative products can be used effectively.

“Concerns raised by EU member states about being excluded from negotiations at COP10 and the need for transparency and inclusivity in discussions that impact public health.”

CAPHRA’s criticism aligns with reports that the WHO is influenced by special interest groups and that the FCTC has become restrictive in its engagement with NGOs, creating an echo chamber that ignores the potential benefits of harm reduction strategies. “CAPHRA urges the WHO FCTC to re-evaluate its stance on harm reduction and to engage with all stakeholders, including consumer groups, to develop effective tobacco control policies that prioritise public health and respect the Right to Health,” Ms Loucas said.

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