Now is the time for making our voices heard.
At the beginning of May, Copwatch briefly referenced potential dangers to reduced risk nicotine products at COP10 discussed in recent WHO documents which have been highlighted by the New Nicotine Alliance UK.
The British consumer organisation launched a call to action in March to encourage “supporters, consumers of reduced risk nicotine products, and others who understand the benefits of harm reduction” to write to their elected representatives and also to the assigned UK focal point to the FCTC Bureau and European region.
It has started something of a movement.
In April, four French groups led by consumer association, SoVape, followed suit and began their own similar campaign, declaring that “an offensive against vaping is being prepared ahead of COP10.” A week later, Italian group ANPVU joined the party by inviting Italian consumers to do the same.
End Cigarette Smoking in Thailand, a consumer association with over 100,000 online followers, also threw their hat in the ring on May 5th, with a press release urging the Thai government and focal point to object to WHO plans to apply bans and restrictions to vaping products at the COP10 meeting in Panama in November.
Prior to previous COP meetings, the FCTC Secretariat has enjoyed a comfortable ride in producing biassed materials to guide national delegations into hostility towards harm reduction.
WHO appointees to the FCTC Bureau and Secretariat have always thrived under the cloak of secrecy they cleverly weaved around preparations for COP conferences. They have been mostly unchallenged when ignoring evidence on the effectiveness of safer nicotine and peddling their anti-harm reduction agenda to member delegations. But it appears consumer groups all around the world are alive to their antics this year.
We are sure that there will be policymakers in the above-mentioned countries finding out for the first time that the WHO is riding roughshod over the concerns of their citizens. With another month or so before delegations form their country positions, messages from the public could be crucial.
The agenda for COP10 will not be produced until September so there is still time for many other consumer groups to start their own campaigns and we are sure they will. It is becoming quite trendy.
Speaking truth to power is widely regarded as a virtuous action, but the WHO has been at pains to minimise the risk of this happening with their COP preparations over the years. Engagement with the WHO and their appointed FCTC administrative bureaucracies has been made deliberately impossible, but it is national governments who make the decisions at COP meetings and, unless they are set up as a dictatorship like the WHO, they are beholden to their electorate.
Copwatch is keen to see which national consumer group will be next out of the blocks to urge their followers to get involved in the COP10 process via the democratic process. Could it be yours?
If so, time is of the essence. The registration process for submitting national delegations opened on 8 May, so governments will already be thinking about who to send to COP10. The sooner they hear our voices, the better.
We will be adding the current initiatives to our campaigns tab and look forward to adding more in the near future.