Damian Thompson Damian Thompson

‘Smoking kills, nicotine doesn’t’: a huge boost for campaigners who say e-cigs save lives

Dr Derek Yach has done more than any man alive to eradicate smoking. A former professor of global health at Yale, he developed the World Health Organisation’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, now in effect in almost 180 countries. He has relentlessly drawn attention to the slippery tactics of the tobacco industry, which promotes its products while ostensibly lending its support to anti-smoking campaigns.

But his article in today’s Spectator Health breaks ranks with former colleagues in the WHO, which disapproves of e-cigarettes and other vaping products. Their ‘intransigence’ threatens the lives of millions, he argues. As matters stand, a billion people will die from smoking-related diseases by 2100. If that happens, the WHO will bear some of the responsibility.

But Dr Yach goes further. His article accuses the WHO of allowing anti-vaping lobbyists to twist its arm. Here’s the paragraph that will have anti-vapers hyperventilating this morning (my emphasis in bold):

Why are we in this position? One reason is that governments have become addicted to tobacco excise tax and may fear that, as e-cigs take off, they will lose a valuable source of revenue. Many leading NGOs and academics exert strong influence at WHO, within governments, in the media and among the general public. In the past, they helped bring tobacco control out of the shadows and into the mainstream of health policy. Now, alas, their intransigence threatens more profound progress.

Full disclosure: Dr Yach is executive director of the Vitality Institute for Health Promotion, and Vitality are the Spectator’s partners in producing today’s Spectator Health supplement. None of us has any commercial interest in promoting e-cigarettes; indeed, the article demands far greater transparency from e-cig maufacturers. In more than 30 years of doing battle with tobacco companies, Dr Yach – who advises the Clinton Global Initiative and the World Economic Forum – has learned to distrust assurances from every producer of nicotine products.

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