The WHO Proves It Is Interested Only in Its Own Power, Not Health

As evidence of the effectiveness of reduced risk products to help people quit smoking grows, and as more countries start to recognise that prohibiting or heavily restricting their use is futile and contrary to public health goals, the desperation of the World Health Organization (WHO) to defend its stubborn anti-science approach has begun to turn distinctly ugly.

In her closing speech to the 10th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP10) to the WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), Head of the FCTC Secretariat, Adriana Blanco Marquizo, shockingly singled out a quote during the week of the conference from a youth group as being particularly praiseworthy.

She went as far as to call for delegates to stand up and applaud the group for stating “[t]he interests of ... smokers, should never serve as justification for legitimizing products that could send even a single child down the path of addiction.” It speaks volumes about the contempt and lack of empathy the WHO holds for people who smoke that she cannot recognize how revolting and disdainful those words are.

It perpetuates a narrative that vilifies harm reduction strategies without regard for scientific evidence or the well-being of adult smokers seeking alternatives to combustible tobacco. It signals that her organisation has no care whatsoever for the 1.25 billion people around the world - who currently smoke – 80% of whom live in low and middle income countries - and is happy for them to die rather than the WHO change its mind in the face of real-world evidence of positive outcomes in countries where harm reduction products are available.

The youth group she praised, Global Youth Voices (GYC), is an entity funded by the Global Centre for Good Governance in Tobacco Control which, in turn, is funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies, the most virulent ideological opponents of harm reduction in the world. GYC is, quite clearly, a front group set up to echo the WHO’s science free proposals, no doubt with its hearty approval. The hypocrisy of Marquizo and her acolytes perpetually criticizing any objectors to the WHO’s stance on lower risk nicotine products as “astroturf” or “front groups” while endorsing an unconscionable statement like this from their one of their own sham mouthpieces is laughable.

It proves that the WHO, supposedly entrusted with safeguarding global health, has revealed a troubling pattern of prioritizing its own power over evidence-based approaches to improve public health. Marquizo’s speech is just one example from COP10 of the WHO's stance on e-cigarettes exemplifying a disturbing trend where political agendas supersede the pursuit of public health outcomes.

In a shocking display of misinformation, the Spanish Secretary of State for Health, a COP10 delegate, shared a mock-up on social media of a single-use vaping device branded as “New Vaper” bearing the description "cancer flavor," and claiming it to be "100% carcinogenic." The tweet he sent out has since been community noted for being pure misinformation. Such reckless dissemination of inaccuracies undermines public trust and exacerbates unwarranted fear surrounding reduced-risk nicotine products which can save lives.

More worrying still, the official photographs released by the FCTC Secretariat include some of Ruediger Krech, Director for Health Promotion at the WHO, meeting GYC delegates and smiling approvingly when presented with the “cancer flavor” vape. It seems that even those in the highest positions of authority in the WHO are perfectly comfortable with promoting falsehoods, celebrating fake science, and spreading deceitful messaging.

Furthermore, following COP10, the WHO issued a news release urging governments to enact immediate measures to control e-cigarettes, claiming that “[e]-cigarettes as consumer products are not shown to be effective for quitting tobacco use at the population level.” There is mounting evidence to the contrary of the WHO’s claim.

In the same week as the WHO release, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM) found that individuals who received free e-cigarettes and e-liquids were 77% more likely to quit smoking for at least six months compared to those in the control group. This adds to the "high certainty evidence" that the Cochrane Collaboration, known for its rigorous reviews, has concluded to prove that vaping is far more effective at helping smokers quit than traditional NRT approved by the WHO.

The NEJM research also assessed the safety of using e-cigarettes to quit, finding no difference in respiratory symptoms or the rate of serious adverse events, further highlighting the “cancer flavor” vape touted by the WHO’s Bloomberg-funded front group, GYC, as just a sick-minded fantasy peddled by disingenuous and brainwashed activists.

A commentary by Nancy Rigotti, of Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, accompanying the NJEM research emphasized the need for professional medical societies to reconsider their cautious positions on e-cigarettes for smoking cessation in light of the compelling evidence. “The burden of tobacco-related disease is too big for potential solutions such as e-cigarettes to be ignored", she said, which should be a wake-up call for irresponsible groups such as the WHO to consider rethinking their shameful activities.

The WHO’s post-COP10 reinforcement of a call to action published in December was perhaps motivated by the FCTC Secretariat’s frustration that many delegations to COP10 were not heeding its blatantly cherry-picked evidence reviews and extremist policy proposals.

A number of countries such as Guatemala, the Philippines, New Zealand, Armenia, China, Russia and Antigua referenced harm reduction in their progress statements during the opening plenary of the conference. During the event, there were also objections to the quality of the biased reports that the Convention Secretariat presented to Parties to the treaty for consideration. St Kitts and Nevis went as far as presenting a draft decision for Parties to demand the WHO pay proper attention to article 1(d) of the treaty which identifies harm reduction as one of the pillars of tobacco control.

The WHO's obstinate stance against harm reduction reflects a broader trend of political interference overriding public health priorities. Adriana Blanco Marquizo’s repellent endorsement of a statement which presents people who smoke as subhuman and not worthy of saving is emblematic of the WHO’s determination to prioritise bureaucratic inertia and ideological fervor over public health. By eagerly perpetuating misinformation and dismissing emerging evidence, the organization undermines its credibility and abandons its mandate to protect global health.

It is difficult not to conclude that the WHO's disregard for evidence and penchant for political posturing demonstrates a troubling prioritization of their own power and influence over their obligations to improve public health.

Martin Cullip is an International Fellow at The Taxpayers Protection Alliance's Consumer Center and is based in South London, UK.

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