Derek Yach is a former WHO cabinet director and executive director for noncommunicable diseases and mental health. According to the Foundation for a Smoke-free World, he “is also the former chief health officer of the Vitality Group, executive director of the Vitality Institute, Senior Vice President, global health and agriculture policy at PepsiCo, director of global health at the Rockefeller Foundation, and a professor of global health at Yale University.”
Although some in tobacco control would have the world believe otherwise, it’s safe to say that Yach is an expert with demonstrable goals for and positive action in harm reduction.
In “Accelerating an end to smoking”, published in Drugs and Alcohol Today, Yach describes the progress the FCTC has made towards its framework’s goals, the setbacks and the strategies needed in the future. It was written with the next WHO FCTC Conference of the Parties (COP9) in mind, due to take place in the Netherlands in November, but this has been postponed to November 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yach writes: “The World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control defines itself as ‘an evidence-based treaty that reaffirms the right of all people to the highest standard of health’.”
The WHO is now operating in a different world; one where vaping has shifted the paradigm and, as Yach continues, where the public and the WHO have become “inured” to the “devastating numbers” associated with smoking illness and death. “Tobacco-attributed deaths, like many noncommunicable diseases fail to prompt proportionate outrage.”
“It is time to raise our ambition.”
He points out that the greatest successes enjoyed by the WHO are the ones that have the least impact on public health, on-pack health warnings most notably. Meanwhile, the much-lauded WHO MPOWER Package – a package of country-level measures aimed at reducing the demand for tobacco products – has managed to reach just 0.5% of the global population despite the backing of Bloomberg’s millions of dollars.
“To cut death and disease rates within two decades, we must consider new strategies for accelerating adult cessation. In particular, we must embrace empathetic tactics that encourage individual smokers to quit or switch – including the use of harm reduction products.”
“The omission of HRPs from the FCTC can be attributed, in part, to the era in which the treaty was penned. Except for snus, the range of nicotine technologies available today did not exist 20 years ago. Nonetheless, the treaty includes harm reduction as a defining component of tobacco control (WHO, 2005), and would benefit from an elaboration on how to incorporate this tool into a comprehensive approach cessation.”
“The lack of details on HRPs exemplifies one way in which the FCTC remains essentially frozen in time – a feature that must change if we are to alter the trends in tobacco-related death and disease.”
Yach’s “Accelerating an end to smoking” can be read in full using the link below.