Trade and consumer groups from around the world call on World Health Organisation (WHO) to support harm reduction


28 October 2021

Following a meeting of international parliamentarians hosted by Chair of UK All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Vaping Mark Pawsey MP, trade and consumer harm reduction groups from around the world met to discuss the threat to tobacco harm reduction if the WHO’s Conference of the Parties (COP9) continues in its current trajectory.

The meeting, co-hosted by the UK Vaping Industry Association’s Director-General John Dunne and APPG for Vaping Chair Mark Pawsey MP, saw over 20 international organisations come together to discuss the WHO’s long-standing anti-harm reduction stance towards alternative products to combustible tobacco, including e-cigarettes, heat not burn and snus.

Groups in attendance shared concerns that international public health is at risk if the WHO continues to dismiss the clear evidence supporting these products.

John Dunne said:

“Time and time again the WHO has ignored the evidence; contributing to rising levels of misinformation and preventing millions of smokers from making an informed choice on their health.

  “COP9 could be a critical turning point for the international vaping community which is change peoples’ lives every day. At the Conference, the United Kingdom has a duty to lead the charge against the WHO and be proud of its record so far. The UK delegation should use its influence to encourage other delegations to back the science and follow its example.

 “We know the pressures of Governments, particularly over the last 18-months, and that’s why we called this meeting to coordinate efforts and support parliamentarians everywhere.”

 Mark Pawsey MP said:

The UK is in a unique position and a world-leader on these matters.

“It’s extremely worrying to hear this rhetoric coming from the WHO regarding the harm reduction alternatives to cigarettes. We know that cigarette smoke contains many toxic or carcinogenic constituents. It is these toxic by-products of combustion that are responsible for smoking related death and disease, which are not present in the various alternative products.

“Vaping products reduce harm and help save a great many lives. It’s time we unequivocally gave them our support and not muddy the waters with falsehoods. I hope the UK Government’s delegation champions our record and takes heed of the recommendations the APPG put forward in its report.”

The APPG published a report discussed at the virtual roundtable. The report made several recommendations ahead of COP9, including that the UK should position itself as a global leader in harm reduction in relation to smoking cessation, and not be afraid to assert its national sovereignty against the WHO’s anti-vaping agenda. Additionally, it recommended that the UK delegation to COP9 should propose the establishment a COP Working Group on harm-reduction.

The WHO has adopted an anti-vaping stance despite leading health organisations in the UK including the NHS, Cancer Research UK, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence and Royal College of Physicians all recognising the public health benefits in getting smokers to switch to far less harmful vape products.

Some 3.6 million smokers across the country have switched to vaping to kick their habit, with 2.4m having quit conventional cigarettes for good through vaping. Evidence shows that vaping is twice as successful as Nicotine Replacement Therapies.

Representatives from national governments that attend COP9 will be instrumental in shaping global policy over the coming years towards e-cigarettes and other less harmful alternative nicotine products.

The various groups which attended this roundtable are critical at challenge their respective Ministers for Health from the ground up, encouraging them to advocate for harm reduction products and to follow the example of the UK Government.




Note to Editors:


  1. The international approach to tobacco control is governed by the World Health Organisation (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), the first international health treaty which came into force in 2005 and is legally binding in over 180 countries. The UK has been an active contributor to the implementation of the FCTC, including providing £15 million of financial support between 2016 and 2021.
  2. Previous meetings of the governing body of the FCTC, the Conference of the Parties (COP), have mandated intersessional work and reports on e-cigarettes and novel and emerging tobacco products; papers are to be submitted to the next meeting of the COP in November (COP9). Delegates attending COP9 will be instrumental in shaping global policy towards e-cigarettes and other alternative less harmful nicotine products over the coming years.
  3. For the first time since the FCTC came into force, the UK Government will participate in the FCTC COP not as a member of the European Union delegation, bound by a common EU position, but as an independent sovereign nation, free to advance the interests of UK citizens through the promotion of science and evidence-based tobacco control policies.
  4. During COP9 the UK delegation has the opportunity to highlight the work and consensus opinions of UK public health bodies and NGOs on the safety and efficacy of vaping products in smoking cessation and harm reduction efforts.
  5. Based on prior reports of the WHO and FCTC Secretariat, recommendations from COP9 are likely to include bans or restrictions on flavours; comprehensive restrictions on product communications; bans on health and cessation related claims; limits on products formats; increased taxes; large graphic health warnings; and plain packaging. These recommendations, almost all of which are out of step with the UK’s approach to the regulation of vaping products, will in turn become the global standard by which to measure and evaluate the efforts of the Parties, including the UK, to implement their FCTC obligations.
  6. The APPG for Vaping’s inquiry into COP9 made a series of recommendations for the UK delegation to adopt, to align the delegates’ strategy for COP to that of the UK Government’s strategy for tobacco harm reduction. The topics discussed at the virtual roundtable included
    1. Noting the FCTC reports on novel and emerging tobacco products
    2. Deferral of discussions to COP10
    1. Objecting to any inclusion of ENDS within the scope of the FCTC
    2. Challenging the unduly restrictive and selective policy towards civil society observers and media allowed into COP meetings.


Any media queries should be directed to Louie Hadley, JBP:


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