Smoking and vaping: NHS shows difference between the two
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Smoking rates are significantly higher within LGBT people than heterosexuals – with the Office for National Statistics putting the figure at 23 percent compared with 15 percent among the straight community. This prevalence has led charity the LGBT Foundation to call on the WHO to promote vaping as a way of stopping smoking.
Despite Public Health England and Royal College of Physicians both stating it is 95 percent safer than smoking, WHO wants vaping banned.
The upcoming COP9 in November aims to tackle international tobacco use – which kills more than eight million people globally each year.
LGBT Foundation has applied to speak at the summit – which is being held virtually because of the Covid pandemic.
But it says that the WHO has refused to grant it access – which it claims has in effect “isolated” the LGBT community.
LGBT Foundation smoking history programme coordinator Tom Chew said: “Having representation at WHO’s convention on tobacco control is necessary and important for the progression of inclusive smoke-free strategies.
“By not considering community input or having a diverse representation of those who use smoking cessation services or those who are disproportionately affected by smoking at such talks, can inhibit people’s attempts to quit successfully.
“It can also isolate certain demographics from the conversation.”
WHO’s Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) is where it develops agreed statements on how to best reduce tobacco use and save lives. The UK is its biggest financial contributor.
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WHO then encourages countries to act on these recommendations and gives awards to those that do, as it did for the Indian health minister when he banned e-cigarettes.
But it has been criticised for “fundamentally misunderstanding” how to stop people smoking tobacco, including its attacks on vaping, a known effective cessation aid.
Cancer Research UK recommends it as an effective quitting tool while Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) says “e-cigarettes have proved to be an important gateway out of smoking, not into it”.
Vaping has also been credited with saving millions of lives. In the UK 60,000 smokers switch to e-cigarettes each year, reducing the chances of developing tobacco related illness.
The LGBT community actively promotes cessation aids – including vaping, nicotine gum and therapy – but will not be afforded the chance to express their views in November.
Nicotine replacement users will also not be allowed to contribute.
Representatives of such products have questioned why a convention on tobacco use refuses to hear from groups with the highest smoking rates.
Consumer advocacy group We Vape director Mark Oates, who supports the BackSmokingSaveLives campaign, said: “It’s completely ridiculous but predictable behaviour by the World Health Organisation not to seek advice from communities most affected by smoking – at a convention to tackle tobacco use.
“The LGBT community actively promotes nicotine alternatives, including vaping, because it listens to experts like Public Health England.
“WHO has no regard for something as inconvenient as science and will call on all member states to either ban or further restrict vaping. And they will have blood on their hands.
“There are 3.6million vapers in the UK and countless millions around the world, many of whom have completely quit tobacco use by switching to vaping, which we know to be 95 per cent safer than smoking.
“WHO displays total arrogance in its approach to not listening to any one who doesn’t adhere to their narrative that vaping is as bad as smoking. They simply ignore facts to suit their agenda and one has to question their motives.”
The reasons behind the smoking disparity in the LGBT community is complicated.
It is linked to higher rates of mental health issues and substance misuse, while a quarter of the youth homeless population identify as LGBT.
WHO has also faced savage criticism over its apparent cosy relationship with China during the pandemic.
The country is the largest producer and consumer of tobacco in the world and more than half of adult men smoke.
Nearly one in three of every cigarette smoked in the world is done so in China.
Express.co.uk has contacted WHO for comment.
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