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WHO Thought This Was A Good Idea

The WHO has outdone itself again with a collection of ridiculous adverts and a stream of lies and half-truths about vaping

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World Health Organization’s (WHO) World No Tobacco Day has introduced some of the worst adverts made about vaping. The lavishly funded campaign has provoked condemnation and anger at the questionable use of children and the inevitable barrage of half-truths and lies.

At a time when the WHO is battling for its credibility with countries around the world due to its mishandling of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has covered itself in something smellier than glory with the World No Tobacco Day support materials.

The organisation states:

The global campaign will debunk myths and expose devious tactics employed by these industries. It will provide young people with the knowledge required to easily detect industry manipulation and equip them with the tools to rebuff such tactics, thereby empowering young people to stand up against them. This is especially important right now as studies show that smokers have a higher risk for a severe case of coronavirus. WHO calls on all young people to join the fight to become a tobacco-free generation.”

Industries? Who on earth could they be referring to in addition to the tobacco industry? Snus? Vape?

It talks about tobacco “and related industries” that “must continuously find new consumers to replace the ones that their products are killing to maintain revenue.”

Vaping is continually killing people? This is one study that hasn’t crossed the desk of POTV Towers.

WHO accuses “related” vape industry of the following “tactics to market to children and adolescents”:

  • Over 15,000 flavours, most of which attract children and adolescents
  • Social media influencers and marketing
  • Sponsored events and parties
  • School scholarships
  • Sleek, sexy designs
  • Product placement in entertainment media
  • Free product samples
  • Single stick cigarettes make addiction more affordable
  • Selling products at eye level for children
  • Product placement and advertising near schools

It lies when it claims vaping “increases the risk of cancer, cardiovascular and pulmonary disease”, and cherry picks evidence when it states, “children and adolescents who use e-cigarettes at least double their chance of smoking cigarettes later in life.”

European Tobacco Harm Reduction Advocates (ETHRA) wrote:

WHO's anti-vaping campaign violates the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control.”

ETHRA was quoting a headline from the Vapolitique blog, linked below, that accuses WHO staff of “abyssal incompetence” and driven by “opaque financing” from “an oligarch with dubious morals”.

Association Vape India said:

The use of 6-yr old kids doing vape tricks in WHO's tobacco campaign crosses legal boundaries. If someone tried to raise awareness about child abuse with pics of children being abused, they would be jailed. So should the people responsible at WHO.

Advocate Atakan Befrits wrote:

Swedish 45 year snus denial root *enabler*. This is as insane as a 2020 WHO ‘HIV+Covid is God’s Punishment’ if it were universal knowledge >99% harm reduced **tobacco based** tobacco products are in production and use, since beyond 100 years before Marlboro.”

Anyone with a decent modicum of knowledge on Communications theory, PR and marketing would baulk at this year’s WNTD2020 messaging. This is so over the line  it’s  borderline criminal negligence. This isn’t warning against, this is marketing for, youth nicotine use incl. cigarette.”

The World Health Organization’s relationship with billionaire Michael Bloomberg, Bloomberg Philanthropies, and Vital Strategies is toxic and destructive. Campaigns like this spread disinformation and lies – resulting in slowing the transition away from tobacco to safer alternatives.


Dave Cross avatar

Dave Cross

Journalist at POTV
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Dave is a freelance writer; with articles on music, motorbikes, football, pop-science, vaping and tobacco harm reduction in Sounds, Melody Maker, UBG, AWoL, Bike, When Saturday Comes, Vape News Magazine, and syndicated across the Johnston Press group. He was published in an anthology of “Greatest Football Writing”, but still believes this was a mistake. Dave contributes sketches to comedy shows and used to co-host a radio sketch show. He’s worked with numerous vape companies to develop content for their websites.

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