World Health Organization Worries More About Vaping Than the Coronavirus

  • by: Robert Goldberg |
  • 02/09/2020

At the same time the World Health Organization (WHO) was dithering about the dangers of the coronavirus, it was perpetuating another public health threat of greater magnitude. 

Specifically, WHO took to Twitter to claim, in the middle of the epidemic that it was slow to recognize, that “e-cigarettes increase the risk of heart disease and lung disorders and pose significant risks as they can damage the growing fetus”.

These claims are false. People using non-combustible sources of nicotine have better lung function and fewer attacks. Quitting reduces death from lung and heart disease. In fact, "Quitting smoking before age 40, and preferably well before 40, gives back almost all of the decade of lost life from continued smoking."

As for damaging the growing fetus, pregnant women use to nicotine patches to stop smoking. In fact, compared to infants whose mother smoked infants born to women who used nicotine patches had higher rates of 'survival without developmental impairment’. Additionally, "nicotine patch replacement therapy also decreased the risk of prematurity and small for gestational age."

Indeed, while the WHO has bungled its response to the coronavirus, SARs, Avian Flu, Ebola, and tuberculosis outbreaks, it has waged an aggressive, unscientific campaign against e-cigarettes. It regards e-cigarettes not as less lethal alternative to smoking, but as a Trojan Horse built by tobacco companies to enslave billions more to nicotine. 

The WHO's latest act of fearmongering was prompted by the Phillip Morris Inc., UnSmoke Your Mind"campaign. The effort is designed to get people to stop smoking and providing people who can't quit a technology-based solution to reduce the harms of cigarettes. 

PMI developed and markets a smoke free product called IQOS which heats the tobacco without combusting, In application to the Food and Drug Administration, (which designated the product as a modified risk tobacco product) PMI demonstrated that lower temperature and lack of combustion reduces the levels of chemicals released compared to those released in cigarette smoke. 

As part of the Unsmoke initiative, PMI wants to get 40 million people who use cigarettes but are unlikely to quit smoking to switch to a smoke-free product. In fact, the IQOS is rapidly reducing cigarette sales in Japan, at the expense of PMI cigarette brands such as Marlboro. That's consistent with US data showing that a decline in smoking was 2-4 times fast after 2014 as vaping became more prevalent.  As for claims that people are trading one addiction for another, a recent randomized trial found that 18% of those assigned to use e-cigarettes were smoke-free after a year, compared with 9.9% of using other nicotine replacement therapies such as patches and gum. 

Yet the WHO claims the Unsmoke effort, along with the e-cigarette generated decline in cigarette smoking, is part of a well-funded covert Big Tobacco strategy that has the “goal of weakening tobacco control." In addition to peddling falsehoods about smoke free products, the WHO is also planning to push for vaping bans around the world this coming year.  To help lead the fight, the WHO’s agency for developing such proposals – the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) -- elected Iran (who the WHO may not realize is a state sponsor of terror) as its chair. Indeed, Iran and WHO appear to take the same approach to truth in their crusade against smoking: The Iranian Anti-Tobacco Association claimed that PMI is a Zionist company smuggled Marlboro cigarettes into Iran laced with pig blood and nuclear material. 

The WHO's sluggish response to epidemics and its fearmongering against e-cigarettes reflect the values and politics of the agency as well as the fact that it functions mainly as a launching pad for the pet agendas of donors and public health technocrats.  As an article in the Independent notes: "WHO has moved from being a global health ambassador to a pernickety lifestyle watcher, campaigning on subjects like sugar taxes, obesity and (via the Framework Convention on Tobacco Control) for a global ban on e-cigarettes, for plain cigarette packaging, and against the effects of smoking in films. At an anti-tobacco conference last year, it left itself open to accusations of censorship after banning the press."

Pandemics cause hundreds of thousands of deaths each year.  Nearly 8 million people die from smoking-related diseases in same time period. Telling people e-cigarettes are as lethal as smoking is like saying that vaccines being developed to prevent the coronavirus are as dangerous as the disease itself.  The WHO war of misinformation against vaping, much like its tardy response to the coronavirus, can be deadly.


Center for Medicine in the Public Interest is a nonprofit, non-partisan organization promoting innovative solutions that advance medical progress, reduce health disparities, extend life and make health care more affordable, preventive and patient-centered. CMPI also provides the public, policymakers and the media a reliable source of independent scientific analysis on issues ranging from personalized medicine, food and drug safety, health care reform and comparative effectiveness.

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