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Experts accuse WHO of encouraging smoking to waste more lives

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UN agency decries ‘exploitation’ of young people by tobacco firms

A group of foreign experts has criticised the World Health Organisation (WHO) for “its backwards-looking approach to innovation and new technology, such as vaping products.”

Vaping is the inhaling of a vapour created by an electronic cigarette (e-cigarette) or related devices.

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E-cigarettes are battery-powered smoking machines. They have cartridges filled with a liquid that usually contains nicotine, flavours and chemicals. The fluid is heated into a vapour which the person inhales.

The professionals, who claimed independence in a statement, said they were angered by WHO’s alleged ‘dogmatic hostility’ towards new technology, fearing that the United Nations agency would “squander the opportunity to avoid millions of premature deaths that will be caused by smoking.”

The specialists include Professor David Abrams of the School of Global Public Health, New York University, United States; Emeritus Professor Robert Beaglehole of the University of Aukland, New Zealand; Attorney General Tom Miller of Iowa, United States; Professor Tikki Pangestu of the University of Singapore; Director, United Kingdom Centre for Tobacco and Alcohol Studies, Professor John Britton; Professor Rajesh Sharan of the University of North-Eastern Hill, India; Adjunct Professor David Sweanor of the University of Ottawa, Canada, and former Director, Action on Smoking and Health, UK, Clive Bates.

Abrams claimed: “We know beyond reasonable doubt that vaping and other smoke-free nicotine products are very much less risky than smoking, and that those who switch completely see rapid improvements in their health. Yet WHO continues to promote the outright prohibition or extreme regulation of these products. How can it make sense to ban the much safer product when cigarettes are available everywhere?”

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The team raised the alert that the global agency could miss key international objectives for reducing cancers, heart and lung ailments.

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) require a one-third reduction in casualties from non-communicable diseases.

The WHO had, on World No Tobacco Day, launched a new kit for students aged 13 to 17, to alert them to the “tobacco industry’s tactics to hook them to addictive products.”

This year’s version of the event, which holds every May 31, focused on protecting children and young people from exploitation by the tobacco and related industries.

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The toolkit had a set of classroom activities, including the one that put the students in the shoe of the tobacco industry to “make them aware of how the industry tries to manipulate them into using deadly products.”

It also included an educational video, myth-buster quiz and homework.

“Smoking suffocates the lungs and other organs, starving them of the oxygen they need to develop and function properly.”

He added: “Educating the youth is vital because nearly nine out of 10 smokers start before age 18. We want to provide young people with the knowledge to speak out against the tobacco industry’s manipulation.”

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