The toll of tobacco smoking is public health problem number one. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that one billion lives will be cut short by “tobacco” (smoking) this century, if current trends continue. Yet, despite the abject failure of currently-approved methods for helping addicted smokers quit, public health authorities, nonprofits, and politicians worldwide are doing their best to impede, rather than promote, a potentially miraculous new technology devoted to that very goal: electronic cigarettes and e-vapor products (e-cigs).
From San Francisco to Washington to New York, self-styled experts as well as heads of federal agencies routinely warn smokers not to even try using them, no matter how often they’ve failed to quit.
Now the same message will be coming from Moscow! The WHO’s own tobacco control treaty (the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, FCTC) will be discussed, debated and revised over the next week in the former seat of the USSR. While this treaty has some feel-good measures that have not (and will not) have much effect on reducing the toll of cigarette smoking — much like our own tobacco law, enacted in 2009 — the net damage it does to public health far outweighs any conceivable benefits. Again like our own law, it has high hurdles for any new product to enter the market.
That’s a problem, because new often means reduced-risk nicotine delivery, especially for e-cigs. Sections ostensibly aimed at benefiting public health — plain packages, encouraging cessation methods we already know do not work, raising taxes (including on e-cigs), forcing cigarette companies to list their ingredients — have not reduced smoking discount cigarettes significantly in any of the 180 or so signatory nations (the USA has never adopted the treaty, and in any event we are boycotting the Moscow meeting as part of our anti-Putin campaign. I doubt he will lose any sleep over this charade, however, nor will it impact public health).
Smoking rates have declined slowly or not at all over recent years in Europe and America, while Asian populations have taken up the habit avidly, egged on by big tobacco’s predatory recruitment tactics largely abandoned in the west. While most smokers want to quit, the currently approved methods work about one time in ten, an unacceptably low “success” rate.