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Smoke Free Sweden Attacks WHO Failure

The Smoke Free Sweden initiative says the country’s success defies WHO statements on e-cigarettes and expresses its “deep disappointment” at Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus’ recent comments

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Advocates for tobacco harm reduction at the Smoke Free Sweden initiative have expressed their “deep disappointment and alarm” over comments made about vaping by the World Health Organization (WHO) director general, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Dr Tedros dismissed vapes being able to help reduce smoking rates and called their promotion to smokers as dangerous.

Dr Delon Human, the leader of the Smoke Free Sweden initiative said: “Against the background, that harm reduction strategies are fully accepted as part of tobacco control, in the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, the WHO's dismissal of e-cigarettes as a harm reduction tool is a setback for public health. This could jeopardise the future of millions of adult smokers who use alternative nicotine products to help them quit far more harmful cigarettes.

For people who smoke, accurate public health messaging is critically important, especially by the WHO Director-General. Combustible cigarettes are uniquely deadly, and quitting is difficult. Evidence shows nicotine vaping products (e-cigarettes) can help people quit smoking and are considerably less harmful than smoking. In addition, it is contradictory for WHO to recommend the use of medicinal nicotine products, while at the same time advocating de facto prohibition of consumer nicotine products.

Dr Ghebreyesus also seems to ignore the remarkable feat of Sweden, which is about to become the first country in the developed world to achieve smoke-free status.

Sweden's remarkable success story in tobacco control is largely due to its harm reduction strategies, which allow adult smokers access to affordable harm reduced products, such as e-cigarettes and oral nicotine pouches.

Sweden now boasts the lowest incidence of smoking-related diseases and the fewest premature deaths due to tobacco-related causes in Europe. That’s in no small part a result of the accessibility, availability, and affordability of safer alternatives to cigarettes, such as e-cigarettes, in Sweden.”

Dr Human isn’t just any commentator – he is a former adviser to two WHO Director-Generals and to the United Nations Secretary-General on global public health strategie.

He added: “It is deeply disappointing and alarming that WHO appears to reject tobacco harm reduction when it practises similar strategies to address other problems like drug addictions.

The WHO's latest focus on attacking tobacco farmers and Turkmenistan's efforts in reducing smoking, seem to be deflecting recognition from success stories hiding in plain sight. For example, Sweden's extraordinary achievement in becoming smoke-free offers a far more compelling and impactful blueprint for the world.

We urge the WHO and other global health organisations to consider the evidence and conduct in-depth country case studies on public health success stories, such as Sweden. When formulating WHO policies, the goal should always be to reduce harm and save lives, and we believe that dismissing potential harm reduction strategies out of hand does a disservice to that mission.”


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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