Subscribe to our YouTube channel: 

THR advocates and researchers continue to analyse the fallout from #COP10FCTC, and its implications for millions of users of safer products around the globe. In this special episode of GFN News, Brent Stafford of Regulator Watch asked leading THR experts at the Good COP / Bad COP event in Panama for their response to the events of #COP10FCTC.


0:00 - Coming up on today's programme
0:48 - Is the WHO's approach fundamentally flawed?
2:12 - Experts speak out over the WHO's prohibition agenda
4:46 - Do #COP10 attendees really understand the science?
7:39 - Frustration over UK failure to support THR at #COP10
11:04 - How can we change anti-THR policies?


00:00:05 --> 00:01:04

Joanna Junak: Hello and welcome! I'm Joanna Junak and this is GFN News on GFN.TV. The 10th Conference of Parties of the WHO Framework Convention on Tobacco Control is behind us. Over five days, many public health experts visited Panama alongside Brent Stafford of RegWatch, who interviewed some of these experts, asking for their thoughts, expectations and predicted outcomes of COP10. In today's episode, we have gathered the most interesting health experts' views. First, let's hear how Konstantinos Farsalinos, a cardiologist and public health expert, answered Brent's question about e-cigarettes and smoking.

00:01:05 --> 00:01:11

Brent Stafford: You certainly know what you're talking about. Now tell us, are e-cigarettes safer than smoking?

00:01:12 --> 00:02:12

Konstantinos Farsalinos: There is no doubt about it. I mean, we have so many years of evidence and evidence is growing every day on the lower risk potential of these products that I don't think there should be a debate today. We should be debating on why some authorities, and I'm talking about the WHO, FCTC, and some countries which have been deceived, I must say, by the WHO, why they are following an approach which is risk aversive, which accepts zero risk, and which has which is completely unrealistic. It's like trying to address the problem of traffic accidents and accept as the only approach that no person should ever enter a car. You understand how unrealistic that is because people need the cars in the same way that people need pleasure and some people cannot avoid having a pleasure of using nicotine or inhaling something.

00:02:13 --> 00:02:19

Joanna Junak: Dr. Farsalinos also shared his thoughts on the WHO's perceptions of vaping science.

00:02:20 --> 00:02:28

Brent Stafford: Dr. Farsalinos, would you say is it accurate to comment that WHO officials are ignoring science?

00:02:30 --> 00:04:46

Konstantinos Farsalinos: They are absolutely ignoring science because the basic principle in science is that you have to look at the totality of evidence. It's not my quote. Richard Feynman was saying that the famous Nobel laureate that Science is the belief in the ignorance of the experts. And you should always be critical towards science and look at the totality of evidence. What we are seeing from the WHO is cherry picking studies that fit to the agenda, to their prohibitory agenda. And unfortunately, I must say that what we are seeing is not using science in order to make decisions about public health, but using science parts of science in order to support predetermined decisions and already made decisions, and then using that part of science that fit our own decisions in a way of providing an argument to support what we are suggesting. The problem is that today, after so many years, several countries have fell into this, let's call it in quotes, trap of the WHO. They have made pretty bad regulatory decisions and they are paying the price every day. And I'm going to give you one characteristic example. One characteristic example is India, which was congratulated by the WHO for the decision to ban e-cigarettes. What has happened after the ban? The e-cigarette market skyrocketed, multiplied by several times, but it is 100% black market of illicit products that no one knows where they're made, no one knows how they're made, what they contain, there is nothing. And what the Indian government did, which is even stranger, they also banned research on harm reduction products. And I think it's very easy for someone to understand why they did that. Because when you look at the outcome that I just mentioned of this decision, now imagine to have science present this highly adverse outcome of their decisions and present them publicly into the country.

00:04:47 --> 00:04:59

Joanna Junak: Mark Oates, director of We Vape UK, was asked if the latest news of the UK plan to ban disposable products could have an influence on COP10 decisions in the future.

00:05:01 --> 00:05:23

Brent Stafford: So, you know, down at COP, I mean, it couldn't have been the worst time to have this happen because I would imagine it's talked a lot in the rooms, you know, of the panels and so forth. Because, I mean, if the UK is moving in this direction, then it proves that everything the WHO has been saying about nicotine vaping must be right.

00:05:25 --> 00:06:02

Mark Oates: Well, what the WHO have been saying about nicotine vaping is completely wrong. And I think we always had an issue with the UK. I remember an MP asked the government about COP9. They said, will you take a harm reduction approach to COP9? And the government said, no, we will not. We will, though, tell them about the success of e-cigarettes. And that, for me, showed that they didn't actually understand the reasons why vaping was successful because of harm reduction, because it's better than smoking. And fundamentally, they were always supportive of vaping. but they never could see the opportunity for things like Swedish snus. And heat-not-burn is another one.

00:06:04 --> 00:06:15

Brent Stafford: So what's next then? Obviously, as representing thousands and thousands of consumers of safer nicotine products in the UK, is there a next step? What can be done?

00:06:16 --> 00:07:37

Mark Oates: Well, the government are looking at a flavor ban now, restricting to four flavors, menthol, mint, tobacco, and a fruit, there's talk of another consultation on that. And I'm going to be working to drive as many people as possible to respond to the consultation because it's really important that people affected by this are heard. In the last consultation, they mentioned flavors and 51% of people said that they didn't think they should ban flavors. So that says to me that half the respondents were vapers and the other half were people that don't vape. So in this next consultation, if there is one, if we get another chance, it's important that as many of the 4.5 million vapors respond and are heard. Because frankly, you know, I like cola. I like donuts. But apparently, according to Rishi Sunak, that's not for adults. That's for kids. And I find it really quite frustrating. You know, young people go to hospital with issues to do with underage drinking. But our response to that is not ban flavored alcohol for adults. You know, we're not talking about having just drinking methylated spirits because people like a pina colada. So it really, really is important that we respond and we make sure that flavors are available because, you know, people may prefer smoking a cigarette to any of those four flavors and people will die.

00:07:38 --> 00:07:49

Joanna Junak: Jeannie Cameron, CEO and Managing Director of JCIC International Consultancy, discussed with Brent the global regulation of smoking cessation products.

00:07:50 --> 00:08:01

Brent Stafford: Are you saying then that while WHO is a mouthpiece, they're not really the power behind the push against nicotine vaping products?

00:08:02 --> 00:11:03

Jeannie Cameron: Well, I don't know absolutely for sure, but you can actually see that there definitely is an alliance. That was agreed in 2000, you know, which is more than 20 years ago. That was an outcome of the conference, as I said, in their declaration at the time. And I think, therefore, you have to see that, the pharmaceutical industry has a lot to lose from the success of vaping products to as a cessation product. You look at the FCTC itself, and there is in Article 14D, there's a requirement there for national governments that have ratified the treaty to ensure that their national tobacco control programs include pharmaceutical products. So in a sense, they kind of bought that part of the treaty. And what more clever strategy could you have than to have the the pharmaceutical industry have tobacco control activists, international NGOs, and the WHO being part of your machine for mouth-piecing your products that you wish to sell. And I'm looking very scathingly, but I think look at it like that. And the UK, I was really disappointed with the UK's intervention on the first day. It was like hitting the issue with a warm lettuce. It was just like, they could have said so much and how it has benefited the UK and their open approach and the government's approach or their stop to swap campaign that they're running. All of the things that the UK government do, not one mention, but you could say the same about the Swedish government, who is the only country in the world that actually is a designated smoke-free country having less than 5%. And the Swedish government says nothing either. And equally Japan, which has really moved by using heated tobacco products to a country that is significantly lower in its smoking rates, still also says nothing. So why are they not saying anything? I don't understand that. Obviously there's pressure not to say anything, but you'd think the sovereign right of states to make their interventions about what they're doing nationally should be stronger. Actually, it's only Canada that I've, not on this issue, but on the opening of the public gallery debates that happened some while ago, Canada did stand up and say that this is not non-democratic, but it hasn't continued with that. But Canada has pushed back and Cuba also pushes back as well on its industry liability issues.

00:11:05 --> 00:11:16

Joanna Junak: And now, let's hear what Roberto Sussman, a physicist and tobacco harm reduction advocate who attended the Good Cop, Bad Cop counter-conference, said about the sessions.

00:11:16 --> 00:11:33

Brent Stafford: One last question, and I think it's a big one because we've not yet asked it to somebody who's attending the Good Cop, Bad Cop counter-conference. What do you think of the sessions and the event that the Taxpayers Protection Alliance is putting on down there?

00:11:35 --> 00:13:55

Roberto Sussman: Well, everybody here has a sense of mission. We know that we are on the losing side of the politics because there is no resources, all these things that we have mentioned, right? But the big change, we are not going to produce the big change. What we are doing is field work. It is a constant a small step, small step, depending on our resources, our timing, we are doing field work. But the change will have to be political because we are subjected, even the science that I'm doing, I'm fighting a political agenda that is trying to dominate science by doing better science. But in other aspects, in other issues, regulation, smoking cessation, et cetera, that the change will have to be political. We still don't know how, but this technocracy that is dominating the whole environment and is excluding everybody else and using a narrative, a McCarthy's narrative that is already obsolete, it is going to run into contradictions because of what I have said in previous programs, right? Consumption is increasing. The Chinese are the ones that make these products. It is not the industry, the Western industry. It is the Chinese. And there's more smokers in the world, and the consumption of these products, in spite of all the bad mouth that they get, it is increasing. And there is black markets. In Mexico, my own country, we have the same smoking prevalence as in 1999, right? And in China, it is stable and so on. So, sooner or later, they will enter into contradictions. We still don't know. It is impossible to predict how. Many things can happen.

00:13:56 --> 00:14:10

Joanna Junak: That's all for today. Join us on Friday to watch Brent's interview with Martin Cullip and Lindsey Stroud, where they will be summarizing the COP10 event in Panama. Thanks for watching or listening. See you next time.