The U.K. Vaping Industry Association (UKVIA) is leading an international push for the World Health Organization (WHO) to reform its stance on vaping regulation.
According to the UKVIA, this will be the first time that international campaigners and leaders of the vaping industry join forces to reform discordant global health policies. Organizations from across North America, Europe, Asia and Australasia have signed the UKVIA’s call to action.
The WHO’s tobacco control group will be meeting at the eighth session of its Conference of the Parties (COP8) in Geneva, Oct. 1-6, to explore international guidance on electronic nicotine delivery systems. Despite having recognized vaping’s potential for reducing smoking rates, the WHO tobacco control group took the contradictory stance in 2016 that member states could also ban vaping products outright as part of a tobacco control plan.
The WHO’s position is at odds with that of member states such as the U.K. and New Zealand, who advocate smokers switching to vaping as part of harm-reduction policy. The UAE, Philippines and Australia are also currently considering lifting their bans on vaping.
This follows growing evidence that vaping is significantly less harmful than smoking. The UK’s Public Health England states that vaping is likely to be at least 95 percent less harmful than cigarettes, with the U.K. seeing a record 23 percent decline in smoking rates in recent years.
International vaping bodies have come together out of concern that the WHO’s stance may compromise the progress made by countries who have embraced vaping, by opening the door to potential bans.
Vapers believe the WHO tobacco control group’s messaging is not only detrimental to public health, but also unaccountable, least of all to the consumers whose taxes fund but do not appear to influence its policies.
Despite the U.K.’s promotion of vaping as an alternative to smoking, questions have been raised about the U.K.’s influence on the WHO proceedings. After all, the U.K. makes an annual donation of $164 million to the WHO, making it the organization’s second-largest funder.
“We and our international co-signatories are proud to stand up for vaping as a route for smokers seeking a less-harmful alternative,” said Lizi Jenkins, a member of the UKVIA’s COP working group and head of regulatory affairs at BSMW. “We are keen to work with the U.K. delegation and the WHO to ensure that its policy decisions at the Geneva congress reflect the evidence and good common sense.”
To global call to action urges the WHO tobacco control group to acknowledge vaping as part of an effective harm reduction strategy, to reverse its previous decision to invite bans and restrictions on vaping; and to recommend that member states regulate tobacco and vaping products separately.
The signatories include:
- ANAFE-Confindustria – Italy
- Asian Vape Association – Asia
- Australian Taxpayers’ Alliance – Australia
- Australian Vaping Advocacy, Trade and Research – Australia
- Canadian Vaping Association – Canada
- Global Vaping Standards Association – USA
- GO for France Vapotage – France
- Koora Elektronické Kouřeni – Czech Republic
- Malaysia E-Vaporizers and Tobacco Alternatives – Malaysia
- Philippine E-Cigarette Industry Association – Philippines
- Udruga Korisnika Osobnih Isparivača – Croatia
- Vape Business Ireland – Ireland
- Vaping Trade Association of New Zealand – New Zealand
- Vapour Product Association of South Africa – South Africa
- Verband des eZigarettenhandels – Germany
Created in September 2016, the UKVIA is a partnership of leading producers, distributors and vendors of vaping products in the U.K. The association has been established to support all parts of the vape industry and aims to represent all responsible and ethical vaping businesses in the U.K., irrespective of the size of their companies and operations.
The UKVIA currently has 29 members.