This weekly analysis provides an overview of the major tobacco harm reduction (THR) issues that grabbed space in the mainstream international and national print and electronic media during the period between May 2-9, 2021.
During the week under review, 151 news items were monitored on the Internet-their majority (43) focusing on policy issues, followed by industry news (31), research studies and surveys (7), and other miscellaneous topics (69). Pakistan was featured in 22 news items, mostly on matters related to taxation in the context of the upcoming budget. Unlike previous weeks which were marked by no news from EMRO, two news items have finally been reported from the region this week.
'A fairer and healthier world needs a better public health agency than the WHO' reads the headline of an article criticizing the World Health Organization for maintaining an unscientific opposition to THR by advocating against giving smokers access to e-cigarettes (spectator.com.au). In the UK, angry MPs are calling on the government to use its new-found Brexit freedom to dissociate from and defund the WHO over its inaccurate insistence that vaping is as dangerous as smoking (vapingpost.com). It is also believed that being a world leader in e-cigarette use among current and former adult smokers, the UK should not have to defend its tobacco control policies at the Convention of Parties (COP9); the APPG report recommends that the UK delegation to COP9 should oppose any decision equating vaping products with combustible cigarettes (insidesources.com). The Adam Smith Institute's latest paper further explains how UK can promote harm reduction at COP9 (adamsmith.org). Meanwhile, the Canadian Vaping Association has commended the National Health Service, UK, for piloting a new programme providing some smokers admitted to emergency departments, free vaping kits and instruction on how to use them in combination with ongoing stop smoking support (globenewswire.com).
The US Food and Drug Administration's April 29, 2021 announcement to advance efforts to ban menthol cigarettes and flavoured cigars to reduce death and disease from using tobacco products has aroused a mixed response from fans and detractors (unionleader.com). The ban is seen as having the potential to greatly impact the health of Black communities by combatting the racist marketing tactics of the tobacco industry (courierherald.com), but is also been described as 'bad policy' as it may bring more people under government coercion (rstreet.org). A coalition of 25 US organizations have rejected the ban which, they believe, will have disastrous consequences for civil liberties, provide a boon for criminal syndicates, and depress state government revenue while doing nothing to reduce smoking rates (iwf.org). From the tobacco industry's perspective, the ban on menthol cigarettes, which make up 25% of British American Tobacco's US profit, could speed up its focus on next-generation products (businesslive.co.za). In Connecticut, however, a bill that would have banned all flavoured tobacco products, has been dramatically amended to exclude menthol cigarettes (thetelegraph.com).
In a recent move being described as a major win for Phillip Morris, the FDA has announced to allow PMI to sell a heated tobacco product called IQOs in the US (heatingnewsjournal.com). Meanwhile, the cigarette tobacco giant has announced plans to phase out conventional cigarettes in Japan within 10 years, replacing them with less harmful alternatives (chiangraitimes.com).
In Pakistan, the Social Policy and Development Centre's (SPDC) policy brief on 'Modelling the Revenue and Health Implications of Tobacco Tax Policy in Pakistan' provides a couple of policy choices for budget 2021-22, outlining positive implications on tax revenues and health outcomes (brecorder.com). The possibility of the third tier of tobacco taxation being reintroduced in the upcoming budget is being resisted by anti-coming campaigners who see the government as having succumbed to the tobacco industry's pressure tactics (jehanpakistan.com). The tobacco industry succeeded in fooling the government in the past to get the third tier; a repetition of the mistake by the government will amount to being fooled twice (thenews.com.pk). Meanwhile, Pakistan has been advised to make a strong commitment to the WHO prescription to fight smoking (thenews.com.pk). The need for smokers to exercise their right to choose better health has been highlighted in an article recommending inclusion of THR as an additional measure complementary to existing tobacco control efforts (dailytimes.com.pk). Local tobacco manufactures have been observed as flouting laws regarding cigarette advertising and promotions by offering cash prizes and other schemes (brecorder.com/news/40091591).
Unbelievable as it may sound, in Malaysia, police are on the hunt for a mother who allegedly gave her two year-old child a puff on an e-cigarette and posted a video of it on the social media (thestar.com.my).