Media need to play fair COP on anti-tobacco work

"There are some in the media who are doing their best to discredit the work we do. They should instead be investigating who's behind the constant attacks on us and vaping," says Nancy Loucas, Executive Coordinator of CAPHRA (Coalition of Asia Pacific Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates).

Her comments follow another media hatchet job on Tobacco Harm Reduction (THR) advocates. This time in relation to submissions to Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) on its recent vaping consultation.

"Over 20,000 Australians continue to die from smoking-related illnesses each and every year. Instead of trying to fix that, the media strike out at smoke-free advocates like myself. They seem desperate to find a conflict of interest or a money trail leading back to evil, but they can't and won't find either," says Ms. Loucas. "It looks as though they are projecting their own misdeeds externally."

The key THR advocate in Asia Pacific says instead of attacking the messenger, the media should be focusing their time and energy on Australia's failed tobacco control measures, which see smoking stubbornly high and access to safer nicotine products restricted to prescription only.

"Instead of looking at the huge problems around Australia's public policy on smoking, they attack those who question it. It's an outrage that they are so willing to do whatever they can to sully the names of those who disagree with them - which is not professional, ethical or even humane," she says.

CAPHRA says with over 70 countries worldwide legislating and regulating safer nicotine products, Australia is increasingly isolated by choosing to follow the World Health Organisation's anti-vaping crusade.

"Who's funding the WHO's discredited position? Where do the supposed scientists, researchers and anti-vaping campaigners get their funding from and why? This is the real story that needs to be exposed," says Ms. Loucas.

CAPHRA says Australia should follow New Zealand's lead – a country that is on track to achieve Smokefree Aotearoa2025. Not only has New Zealand regulated adult retail access to vaping products, but it has published who's receiving gifts and funding from Big Pharma.

"Recently Medicines New Zealand" revealed that the leaders of two key anti-vaping organisations in Aotearoa New Zealand - The Asthma and Respiratory Foundation of New Zealand (ARFNZ) and the Royal New Zealand College of General Practitioners (RNZCGP) - are listed as receiving funds from Big Pharma.

"When it is eventually revealed who is linked to and funding the 'antis', the world will see that the money is all flowing one way - towards prohibition and the corruption of public policies," says Ms Loucas.

Interest is building ahead of COP10 in November. Hosted by the World Health Organization's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the global forum will be held in Panama, with a big focus on safer nicotine products.

Ahead of COP10, CAPHRA has been pushing each member country to include at least one consumer voice in its delegation. It has also urged delegation heads to review increasing international evidence which supports a THR approach.

"Not only does the FCTC choose to ignore growing international science, it completely bans the voice of those who've successfully switched away from deadly tobacco. It's critical for COP10, that the media don't just report one side of the debate. It's time for consumers and THR advocates to be heard. We need to rid the world of combustible tobacco," says Ms. Loucas

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