World No Tobacco Day: Avoiding the real problem


So we ve come to another World No Tobacco Day, under the auspices of the WHO. The ostensible goal of this annual campaign is to reduce the consumption of tobacco products, thereby reducing the deadly toll of tobacco. Unfortunately, outside of the U.S., little progress against the ravages of tobacco have been detected; indeed, smoking rates are climbing in many areas, especially Asia.

The major problem with the WHO no tobacco campaign (as with the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the treaty promulgated by the same organization) is the conflation of tobacco and smoking. Rather than dealing with the real problem 99% of tobacco-disease and death is caused by cigarette smoking the WHO, the FCTC treaty, and proposals inspired by the WHO, especially the EU s Tobacco Products Directive, all buy into the myth that with a concerted effort, tobacco will gradually be made to disappear, and the millions (?billions) addicted to nicotine derived from tobacco will suddenly kick the habit because the WHO and the FCTC signatories ardently desire it to be so.

If the WHO et al really wanted to make progress against tobacco-related disease, they should re-brand their campaign as World No Smoking Day and deal with the real issue: addiction to nicotine and how to utilize the concept of harm reduction supply the nicotine, but divorced from the deadly smoke to enable more smokers to switch to low-risk nicotine products such as smokeless tobacco/snus or e-cigarettes.

ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross complains that, While none in public health dare acknowledge this, the simple truth is that the FDA approved treatments to help smokers quit don t work, or work so infrequently that insisting on using them exclusively while ignoring more effective harm reduction consigns, year after year, hundreds of thousands of American smokers (and millions around the globe) to quit, or die. Meanwhile, millions of smokers are bypassing the just say no to tobacco hype and getting off smoke by using reduced-risk products, whatever the WHO, the EU, and the FDA advise. Millions more soon will join them as experts predict that e-cigarettes will overtake tobacco cigarettes, at least in the U.S., within a decade or so.

I wonder when, if ever, the so-called public health agencies will wake up and discover this nascent public health miracle.