The UN Is Coming for Your E-cigs

Ever the advocate of the government solution to any problem, the United Nations has trained its sights upon e-cigarettes in recent months. The World Health Organization (WHO)’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC), which is the UN tentacle dedicated to policing tobacco sales and consumption around the globe, is making inroads into the vaping market, ultimately hoping to regulate e-cigarettes just as traditional cigarettes, cigars, and the like.

Vaporizers have taken the smoking market by storm over the past decade, exploding from a mere $20 million market in 2004 to $7 billion in 2014, making them a ripe target for the smoking nannies in Turtle Bay. The trouble is, while limiting e-cigarettes clearly appeals to the paternalistic nature of the average bureaucrat, limiting access to e-cigarettes may be hurting the very people such regulations are allegedly intending to help by denying them effective tools for kicking the habit.

A policy brief issued by the Reason Foundation earlier this month made a devastating argument against the FCTC and its push to bring e-cigarettes under its control. The brief described the many failings of the FCTC to come to grips with the fact that, though cigarette smoking and vaping are both vehicles for ingesting nicotine, the two practices have little else in common. In fact, the FCTC, using WHO standards, begins their calculus with the assumption that vaping is “extraordinarily” risky to health, and that “years, or even decades” of research will be required to adequately rebut the presumption of guilt.” The volume and nature of evidence required to overcome this presumption isn’t known, but it is presumably quite high – when studying the smokeless tobacco dry snuff variant known as snus, the decades of evidence showing declines in cigarette smoking and oral cancer rates in countries where the usage of snus is more common were not enough to move the needle even slightly on the WHO’s condemnation of the practice.

According to the latest research, there is strong evidence for the existence of a link between e-cigarette usage and quitting smoking tobacco altogether. A study by the University College London (UCL), found that there is a high correlation between e-cigarette usage and successfully kicking the smoking habit. In another study undertaken by the Cochrane Review, researchers found that the evidence suggests that, not only do e-cigarettes help smokers quit, they pose no significant side-effects, either. Another report, which was carried out by Public Health England, not only bolstered the findings of the Cochrane Review, it also found that e-cigarettes do not lure non-smokers into the smoking habit, were “at least 95 percent safer” than smoking, and posed absolutely zero risk of nicotine overdose.

Rather than legislating based upon the evidence at hand, the WHO has chosen to continue the push for regulating e-cigarettes under the same rules as traditional cigarettes. Under the guise that e-cigarettes might “re-normalize” tobacco smoking, the WHO is using the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control as a vehicle to implement regulation. The push to reclassify e-cigarettes as tobacco products for purposes of the Convention would bring it under the same stringent regulations of traditional cigarettes, like advertising bans, prohibitions on smoking in public, significant excise taxes, and so forth.

The FCTC takes the position that the only way to reduce smoking is essentially for smokers to “quit or die,” and is thus highly skeptical of new technologies that may threaten that paradigm. So deep is the fear and disdain for change that the FCTC Conference of Parties (COP) meetings have become almost cloak-and-dagger affairs held in secret even from the media since 2012. A report issued earlier in September is a prime example -- it was secretly commissioned, written by anonymous authors, and cites unpublished evidence from meetings that were held behind closed doors. The results of this mysterious study are, unsurprisingly, strongly in favor of ramping-up regulations on e-cigarettes. The upcoming COP7, to take place in New Delhi this year, looks set to maintain this cagey status quo, with the conference excluding those affiliated with the industry.

As a result of all this irrational and counterfactual fear of e-cigarettes, the WHO is almost certainly responsible for the fact that smoking rates have not fallen. The smoking habit still kills around six million people each year -- the equivalent of nearly the entire population of Rio de Janeiro. The trend suggests that the number will increase to eight million dead, or an entire New York City, London, or Bangkok, each year by 2030.

As with so much government regulation, unelected bureaucrats have paved the road to Perdition with brick after brick of good but utterly misguided intentions. And, as it happens time and time again with government, once a course of action is taken, all evidence indicating that the direction that has been taken may be a wrong one is quelled. The evidence indicating that e-cigarettes are either benign or actually beneficial in some situations is available and plentiful. But truth is always treasonous in an empire of lies, and the victims are, as always, the blameless and those who are simply trying to do what is right. As usual, the state and its minions are more than happy to watch their hopes go up in smoke.

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