“I call on the Philippine delegation, and all delegations, to the next FCTC COP, to consider our plight”
Here we publish a powerful plea from a vaper in the Philippines to the delegates who will be meeting at COP10 in Panama next month.
“In one month, the parties to the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control will meet in Panama to discuss and set rules on how cigarettes and vaporized nicotine products or VNPs (this is how we refer to e-cigarettes and heated tobacco products here in the Philippines) should be regulated. The debate is as political and as emotional as ever. Netflix has this feature documentary on the biggest vape product in the world, the UK is in the news with their new approach to tobacco control, and the anti-smoking (now also anti-vaping) NGOs are front and center in calling for bans or equalizing the regulations for cigarettes and VNPs. The anti-VNP campaign employs alarmist propaganda, fake news, half-truths,and disinformation. Panama will set the tone for the next chapter of the VNP story.
What is drowned in all this noise are the voices of the people who will be most impacted, smokers and vapers. Smokers because VNPs have proven to be a useful tool for quitting, and vapers who benefit from their availability at present. I am a former smoker. I was able to quit with the help of a VNP. I am still a vaper today, and if the essential qualities that make VNPs work for smokers are taken away (like flavors and nicotine restrictions), I’m not sure if I can keep vaping, or if I’ll find myself going back to cigarettes. This may very well be the case for the millions of vapers globally who will be impacted by the decisions of a handful of bureaucrats in Panama who are not even brave enough to open their discussions to the public eye.
The problem with this debate is that the antis are pushing the narrative that keeping minors away from VNPs and helping adult smokers quit using VNPs are mutually exclusive approaches. They are not. It is possible to protect minors from getting hooked on nicotine products AND give adult smokers the chance to try these, and for adult vapers, to continue making this their nicotine product of choice. It’s all about the regulation. Banning, or equalizing the regulations, will only favor cigarettes and the black market. It still amazes me how the WHO and the NGOs turn a blind eye on these realities, and how they always argue like things happen in a vacuum. “Vapor products are dangerous; they have this chemical or that chemical” they say. That’s true, but if you compare these with cigarettes, they are much less harmful. This comparative exercise should be the test, and not something buried in the sensationalist headlines that banner the worst possible things you can imagine from this product category (think popcorn lung, EVALI, and other kinds of misinformation) which will not even happen if proper regulations are in place.
The old traditional tobacco control measures should be supplemented by these new products. What is worth noting is that the countries with the best VNP regulations are all developed ones. We are yet to see these products take-off in a low- or middle-income country. This is where the COP comes in. Instead of asking how we can keep these products from the poorest of the poor smokers, we should find ways to bring these products to them, as the impact of smoking is felt the hardest in the global south. We have a golden opportunity to study the available evidence, look at the regulations that work (and which are killing cigarettes in the countries where they are given the chance to do so) and share this globally as a best practice.
Stopping smoking CAN include VNPs. I call on the Philippine delegation, and all delegations, to the next FCTC COP, to consider our plight. We are your constituents too, and our welfare, our lives, are more important than the egos, the personalities, and the ideologies that drive the antis in this debate.”