#COP10 documents guide: FCTC/COP/10/7

The one where the WHO denies quitting smoking is quitting smoking, and other daydreaming

In the first Copwatch guide to documents being provided to ‘educate’ national delegations at the COP10 conference in November, let us look at FCTC/COP/10/7, published on 1st August.

This is the third report on articles 9 and 10 ((Regulation of contents and disclosure of tobacco products, including waterpipe, smokeless tobacco and heated tobacco products). You can read the document on the FCTC website to confirm our quotations below.

The first thing Copwatch noticed was how many (or, more accurately, how few) mentions there were of adults within the text of its 25 pages. For the good of our readers, we painstakingly counted them so you don’t have to. Fortunately, it did not take long as there were only two. Yes, two.

Once in terms of a target to reduce “adult smoking” by 2025 (page 2), which you would expect in a report preamble of this nature. The second was in a derogatory way by describing heated tobacco being used by “young adults” (page 10). By contrast, word searching “children” returns 23 results, “adolescents” 24, and “youth” 15.

There must be around 10 times as many adults on the planet as minors, but the WHO either does not notice them or considers them irrelevant. This could explain why the document is devoid of any references which suggest lower risk nicotine products are helping the 100 million+ adults who use them to quit smoking, which they undoubtedly are.

The WHO denies this, of course, because the authors of FCTC/COP/10/7 appear intent on redefining what quitting smoking is, as stated on page 8.

“Lastly, and perhaps most significantly, there is a critical need across the studies to uniformly define ‘cessation’, and whether a person who has switched from conventional cigarettes to ongoing use of ENDS [vapes] can be considered to have successfully “quit “.”

The document also denies that people who smoke are switching to vaping products at all, also on page 8.

“Overall, the certainty of the evidence across the studies and reviews is often rated as ”low” or “insufficient”.

It will not surprise you that this bang up-to-date WHO report does not cite the latest evidence from Cochrane, the global gold standard of evidence reviews, from November, which found high certainty evidence that nicotine e-cigarettes are more effective than traditional nicotine-replacement therapy (NRT) in helping people quit smoking.”

FCTC/COP/10/7 also contains a section on nicotine pouches (page 16), which do not produce smoke and are not made from tobacco. The FCTC objective states clearly in Article 3 that its purpose is to reduce consequences and prevalence of “tobacco use and exposure to tobacco smoke” so this focus on pouches is mission creep unwarranted by the terms of the WHO’s own treaty.

The WHO worries that pouches “have attractive properties, such as appealing flavours, and can be used discretely (sic) without the stigma of smoking”. It reports that its TobReg study group has “made a number of recommendations to policy makers and all other interested parties” which can be found “in Chapter 4 and Chapter 7 (Overall Recommendations) of TobReg’s Ninth report.”

Do not Google for that, though, as it has been published for all “interested parties” except the public who pay for the WHO through our taxes. A secret document, about a product which is not covered by the FCTC treaty, being shared with people who, if they were doing their job correctly, should be telling the WHO that nicotine pouches are none of their business at COP10. (UPDATE: Since publishing our article the TobReg Ninth report was published, on 23.08.23, download from here.)

This is not the only secret report referenced in FCTC/COP/10/7. There is another described as “supplementary information to this report” which discusses flavours in nicotine pouches and how they are advertised. It is available on the WHO FCTC website. By available, they mean available to them, not the likes of us.

It apparently notes that pouches come in “a wide variety of sweet and fruity flavours”, “amplify the visibility of pouch promotion”, “sponsor a wide variety of events” and offer “free or heavily discounted samples.” Otherwise known as companies producing safer nicotine products consumers might like and making them aware they exist.

The WHO is also not happy about pouch manufacturers claiming that their products offer “freedom to use anywhere”, are “innovative/modern/high tech, stealthy/discrete (sic) to use”, and benefit users for “no smell/teeth stains, and as a means of smoking cessation.” All of which is true, but perhaps the WHO has forgotten the meaning of truth at the same time as it forgot the definition of smoke and quitting smoking.

The report next turns its guns on single use vapes (page 17), for which it has engineered a new acronym, D-ENDS. It says that they “were introduced around 2018–2019 and began circulating on global markets” which will come as a revelation for those who were using disposable products from 2007 before refillable tanks were invented up to 2013 when the first heavily commercial disposable was marketed while open systems made by independent producers were still in their infancy

Still, FCTC/COP/10/7 helpfully reports that “a background paper on the characteristics, marketing, challenges of D-ENDS, as well as the regulatory considerations” has been produced “to provide authoritative guidance to its Member States.” That has not been published either.

Lastly, the document takes aim at flavours (page 18). “Flavours are often cited as the primary reason for youth to try a tobacco or nicotine product”, it boldly claims. Sadly, this is not true, either. Action on Smoking and Health in the UK released a report on August 3rd to correct myths about vaping. It was unequivocal that the evidence does not support flavours as a “primary reason” for children to take up vaping.

            The main reason children vape is because they like the flavours: NO

The main reason children give for vaping is ‘to give it a try’, cited by a quarter (26%) of those who have smoked tobacco and more than a half (54%) of those who have never smoked. The next most common reason is because ‘other people use them, so I join in’, in other words peer pressure, cited by 21% of ever smokers and 18% of never smokers. Liking the flavours comes third on the list, cited by 16%of ever smokers and 12% of never smokers as their reason for trying vaping.

It is not true in the USA either. The latest national survey data shows flavours are way down the list, just below the ability to do tricks.

Copwatch has failed to find any evidence that flavours are “the primary reason” for youth to try a nicotine product anywhere in the world.

The organization the WHO cites for its wildly inaccurate claim is STOP, a heavily Bloomberg-funded production. The three articles it refers to are all about flavours in combustible tobacco and present no evidence whatsoever that flavours are a “primary reason” for youth to try non-combustible nicotine products.

The FCTC/COP/10/7 report concludes by asking delegates to “note this report and to provide further guidance.” May we suggest that Parties to the treaty note the report and invite the WHO to come back with something which could be categorised in libraries as non-fiction?