No vape will he be allowed into our anti-smoking pow wow
A vaping activist has been banned from attending the tobacco conference in Cape Town
South African Derek Yach has spent most of his career fighting against the scourge of cigarettes.
He was instrumental in setting up the globally recognised World Health Organisation Convention on Tobacco Control and now heads up an NGO, Smoke Free World, dedicated to helping people quit smoking.
So he is understandably annoyed at being banned from attending the World Conference on Tobacco or Health, taking place in Cape Town this week.
It is the first time the event, which starts on Wednesday, has been held in Africa. The continent was chosen specifically because the tobacco industry is aggressively targeting Africa and continues to sell cigarettes to the poor.Organisers say Smoke Free World has been banned from the event because it accepted a $1-billion donation from cigarette company Phillip Morris International, “and there is a fundamental and irreconcilable conflict between the tobacco industry’s interest and public health policy interests”. Philip Morris will assist with research into vaping. The World Health Organisation does not support vaping as an alternative to smoking.
The conference website in regards to Smoke Free World also states: “A tobacco-free world will not be built on the blood money of tobacco giants, or the pseudoscience they peddle."
But Yach said the decision to ban him was short-sighted and misguided.
“Taking industry funding, when I couldn’t get enough funding from governments, is about life and death,” he said. “A billion people smoke and are going to die.”
He said science had shown that many could switch from smoking to “harm reduction” products such as e-cigarettes.“It is better than anything else we have on the table right now. Look at Japan ... 20% of smokers have quit and moved to electronic cigarettes. The levels [of people quitting] are unprecedented.”Yach also claims tobacco industry scientists are way ahead of scientists in the health world in developing health products.
“We need industry in the room when we speak about tobacco control.”
He said he had been shunned by the World Health Organisation.
“This is the premier global tobacco control meeting that happens every three years. It is the first time it is on African continent, something I fought for many decades. It would have nice to have seen it in my home town.”
He said he had set up his new organisation under US law to be independent of any cigarette company’s interference in his research and anti-smoking efforts.Despite this, the World Health Organisation put out a press statement warning “governments and scientists” not to work with Smoke Free World and accused it of being a “front” for cigarette companies to fight efforts to control and reduce smoking.The World Health Organisation says there are many unanswered questions about tobacco harm reduction, but that research into this should not be funded by tobacco companies.
“This includes promoting so-called light and mild tobacco products as an alternative to quitting, while being fully aware that those products are not less harmful to health.
“This decades-long history means that research and advocacy funded by tobacco companies and their front groups cannot be accepted at face value,” the organisation said in a statement.The president of this year’s conference and a specialist in Public Health Medicine at the University of Pretoria, Flavia Senkubuge, said tobacco companies had been accused of fuelling poverty by paying farmers paltry prices, offering free cigarettes to children and gaining the trust of communities by providing electricity for small towns and providing hospital supplies for children.
“The tobacco industry’s plan is to expand the market in dual use – keep smoking and if you are worried about the health effects switch to their reduced harm products, but don’t quit.”
National Council against Smoking director Yusuf Saloojee said tobacco companies had been lying about the effects of smoking for the past 50 years.
“If the tobacco industry want us to trust them, we need a truth and reconciliation commission. Tobacco companies need to admit the harms they have done to people. There has been no justice.”