APPG parliamentarians present included Mark Pawsey, Gareth Johnson, Adam Afriyie, Mary Glindon and Viscount Matt Ridley. The event represented the first for the APPG in a series that will help it make recommendations for parliament’s representatives at COP9.
The politicians were seeking information about the organisations and individuals represented at the inquiry and their opinion on WHO, FCTC and COP.
Topics covered included the EVALI outbreak, WHO’s constant reference to it despite it not being related to vaping, the influence America and the billionaire Michael Bloomberg wield with WHO, and how tobacco harm reduction/vaping is a casualty of war in WHO’s declared feud with ‘Big Tobacco’.
The emphasis of the presentations was to convince the politicians that the UK delegation to COP9 should defend the UK’s successful harm reduction friendly approach. This is important because independent representatives of the press [link] and members of the general public are excluded from events every session [link]. To date, only Canada has voiced its objection to this and that it runs contrary to WHO’s stated claim of desiring openness.
The presentations were very well received, with one member of parliament going so far as to say it was, “the best prepared briefing I’ve ever seen for an APPG, worthy of a select committee”.
The second inquiry took place on 9 February and heard from harm reduction expert Clive Bates, Imperial College London’s Professor Gerry Stimson, Adam Smith Institute’s Daniel Pryor and UKVIA’s John Dunne.
The kind of message being shared by Stimson can be gauged from his recent article in the journal International Journal of Drug Policy [link], where he discusses the impact and potential benefits accrued from Brexit.
He will be reminding politicians that the government has gone on record to say: “We will look to identify where we can sensibly deregulate without harming public health or where EU regulations limit our ability to deal with tobacco. In particular, the government will assess recent legislation such as the Tobacco Products Directive, including as it applies to e-cigarettes, and consider where the UK's exit provides opportunity to alter the legislative provisions to provide for improved health outcomes within the UK context.”
A government with this stance has to work harder at future COPs than it has in the past. It is vital that the delegation builds a consensus with likeminded governments to promote tobacco harm reduction with the World Health Organization.