After trying to access an Indian Tobacco Institute’s website (healls.org) for 48 hrs I took it upon myself to write a rather irritated message to the WHO regarding WHO non-compliance in responding to perfectly valid questions regarding a (misnomer) product category covering 250 million users in Asia with 1:20 ration of harm compared to smoking. The unfortunate part is that it seems India/WHO are hell bent on calling their products “snus” too, or “smokeless tobacco”. Then there is a couple of million in Scandinavia using the proper (GothiaTek) “snus” product with no measurable harm whatsoever and then finally quite a few million in USA and Canada also using snus but not necessarily (GothiaTek) with so low levels of harm as to make it not statistically significant.
I have not been able to get a response from the WHO in 4 months, but upon writing this irritated message to the WHO, an Indian website that has been non existent for an unspecified period of time suddenly comes online again within 24 hrs, on a saturday! Is this miraculously serendipitous or do people in WHO actually read what we write to them and normally simply just not bother to reply?
The reason for the search in the first place was to see if there were any last minute explanations as to why the conclusive MONOGRAPH ON SMOKELESS TOBACCO IN INDIA that is 1 full year late in publication still was not out for public scrutiny. In 10 days the biggest tobacco control conference in the world begins in Moscow, the COP 6 (or Conference Of the Parties – we who use this product are for some reason not one of the Parties – odd that!) In the conference agenda, smokeless tobacco is nr. 4.4.1. I am certain that there will be moves for even tougher recommendations for legislative bans, especially and understandably from Asia and Africa.
I do not think there will be any recommendations from them to instead intensify the work to lower the risk of these products (where present) even further and also to control the ingredients, so as to be only tobacco and other approved food grade ingredients for taste, texture, humidity and PH value. These specific ingredients that make the product attractive and the nicotine bioabsorbable to the gingiva or oral mucosa. Any other ingredients than these above mentioned would disqualify the product as being “smokeless tobacco” and thus put it under a completely different legislative framework and with nothing to to with the FCTC or the COP6.
There is an excellent recommendation put out by the WHO in it’s Technical Report Series No. 955 from 2009 where the standards put are surprisingly similar to those of the GothiaTek standard at the time. Why not just go for that? Why didn’t India just go for that in 2009? Instead of waiting until 2014 and banning good and bad smokeless products in an omnibus ban, leaving only cigarettes and bidis. I don’t get it?
5 different addresses in WHO-SEARO refuse to answer one single email between june 12th and october 2nd 2014, although a total of 7 emails were sent to them urging them in ever more urgent but polite terms, to publish the Monograph so as making it possible for us to evaluate and formulate opinions and views, or provide an explanation for why this has not been done. No answer, nothing.
Still, fact remains, in 10 days the conference begins. Under this point on the agenda 2 distinctly different issues will be discussed.
1. Funky products used by 250 million people and that has nothing or little to do with “snus” or “smokeless tobacco” and in many cases is quite toxic and cause cancer.
2. Smokeless Tobacco or “snus”. A virtually harmless nicotine product that could/would prove the most effective THR tool in the LMIC world due to possible affordability. Both for smokers but also for users of other oral products that are toxic and cause cancer.
I hope some of the parties at the conference will have the guts to move to have the point stricken from the agenda completely due to non publication of the Monograph.
Same goes for point 4.4.2. Electronic Nicotine Delivery Devices. Strike this point also and let’s talk about it when everyone has done their homework.
Othewise feel free to discuss all the other tools and weapons in the arsenal to lessen the burden of Cigarette Related Disease.
With my regards