Supervisor Elham AbolFateh
Editor in Chief Mohamed Wadie

FCTC Attacks WHO Describing its Data A Misleading

Wed 07 Feb 2024 | 02:40 PM
By Ahmad El-Assasy

Dr. Clive Bates, Former Director of Action on Smoking and Health (UK), who was closely involved in the development of the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control and was a founder of the Framework Convention Alliance (now Global Alliance for Tobacco Control) strongly attacked the World Health Organization (WHO), accusing it of relying on misleading data that would do more harm than good if acted upon.

Dr. Bates' attack on the WHO comes alongside the launch of the 10th Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), currently held in Panama and continuing until February 9, 2024.

Bates commented on the WHO’s agenda of the conference, saying that the organization states that 8 million deaths occur annually almost entirely (99.4%) as a result of smoking or secondhand smoke. 

In contrast, the organization ignores the opportunity to address smoking by encouraging people to switch to much safer, smoke-free tobacco and nicotine products, adding that the WHO improperly casts these products as a threat. 

He explained that the first paper by the World Health Organization attempts to distort tobacco policy by using a false definition to misclassify heated tobacco products as smoked tobacco products and classifying the heated tobacco aerosol as “smoke”, while smoke is a product of combustion, and heated tobacco products do not involve combustion when operating as intended and are chemically qualitatively and quantitatively different from traditional cigarettes.

He explained that the second paper also suffers from multiple defects, including, for example, discussions on the insufficient evidence that proves that these products are less harmful than others. 

While it is true that the level of some harmful chemicals in the aerosols produced by alternative tobacco products is lower than in cigarette smoke. In general, harm-reduction products’ emissions contain far fewer compounds than tobacco smoke and exhibit, on average, a 90% reduction in harmful chemicals. 

Dr. Bates stressed that this issue was examined in court, (Germany, 2021 and Sweden, 2022), and the courts have determined that heated tobacco products cannot be classified as traditional smoking products. 

At the same time, he pointed out that switching to alternative tobacco products could significantly reduce the health risks associated with smoking, which is the basis for US FDA authorization of these products in the markets.

He clarified that the WHO deals with the evidence mainly by dismissing it because most of the studies have been done by the companies that produce tobacco products. 

However, simply dismissing this evidence is unscientific and naïve or cynical, emphasizing that the WHO and tobacco control activists have been instrumental in denying millions of smokers access to life-saving, low-risk alternatives to cigarettes – this has occurred through prohibition, regulation, and misinformation – for which there is no scientific or ethical basis.