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The WHO has recently stirred controversy by sharing widely criticised claims about vaping on its social media accounts, so in today's episode of GFN News we ask, what's this all about? And has this happened before? Joining us today is Will Godfrey who filled us in on the latest chapter of the WHO's infodemic problem.


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:33 - WHO tweet controversy EXPLAINED
1:05 - Experts reject vaping misinformation
2:32 - The WHO's issue with misinformation
3:42 - Closing remarks


00:00:04 --> 00:00:37

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome. I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. Today we are speaking with Will Godfrey of Filter about the latest controversy over a statement from the World Health Organization. Hello, Will. Please tell us what's been happening.

00:00:38 --> 00:01:11

Will Godfrey: Hi, Joanna. Yes, the WHO is at it again. It posted a tweet this month that declared, vaping increases your risk of seizures typically within 24 hours of doing it. The tweet was soon viewed by hundreds of thousands of people, though it received a community note on the platform for being based on inconclusive evidence utilizing studies that have not been peer-reviewed. The WHO duly ignored the many objections raised, which led to some media coverage, including in the Daily Mail of all places.

00:01:12 --> 00:01:16

Joanna Junak: So what was the statement based on and why was it unjustified?

00:01:18 --> 00:02:41

Will Godfrey: There just isn't the evidence to support such a serious claim. Skip Murray wrote a piece for Filter that set it all out. The tweet cited nothing, but likely sources, she noted, included self-reported seizures that were platformed by the FDA in 2019. None of these proved that vaping nicotine was the cause of a seizure, she wrote. They just indicated that someone experienced a seizure sometime after vaping. THR expert Clive Bates estimated an approximate overlap of 140,000 people in the US alone who both vape and are vulnerable to seizures for different reasons. In that context, it would be truly remarkable if people didn't sometimes experience seizures soon after vaping. In 2022, the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council also claimed vaping caused seizures. Its claim cited a single review which contained lines like, the lack of epidemiological evidence means that the incidents and quantitative risk of seizures in e-cigarette users are not known based on the apparent frequency of events from the US, they would appear to be rare. If nicotine e-cigarette use was a cause of seizures, a group of experts responded in 2023, an association between cigarette smoking and seizures would also be expected, but none has been reported.

00:02:41 --> 00:02:45

Joanna Junak: And what's the wider context with the World Health Organization?

00:02:46 --> 00:03:43

Will Godfrey: The agency broadly opposes tobacco harm reduction, encouraging bans and harmful restrictions. Some of its worst further plans for parties to its Framework Convention on Tobacco Control were averted for now, by a lack of consensus at the February COP10 meeting in Panama, as we recently discussed. But the WHO can still do plenty of damage with a social media account. In January and March, it posted outright falsehoods, portraying the idea that vaping is less harmful than smoking as a myth. This month, it added a claim about nicotine damaging youthful brains. Community notes all round. It is frightening, Skip wrote, to think how many people who smoke around the world do not consider safer alternatives as a direct result of the WHO's infodemic, to use the organisation's own term for the spreading of misinformation.

00:03:43 --> 00:03:57

Joanna Junak: Thank you Will. That's all for today. Tune in next time here on GFN TV or on our podcast. You can also find transcriptions of each episode on the GFN TV website. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.