New Delhi: Vapers on Wednesday called on the World Health Organisation to allow the world's one billion smokers to have equal access to safer alternatives to cigarettes such as the electronic cigarettes they smoke.
The call came in the wake of meetings between WHO officials and government health ministries here earlier this week that reportedly considered banning e-cigarettes, even though they are said to be much safer than cigarettes.
"On behalf of millions of us who now vape instead of smoke, and in support of the one billion smokers who deserve access to safer alternatives to cigarettes, we adopt today The Delhi Declaration, calling on the WHO and our countries' representatives at COP-7 to allow us to have equal access to safer alternatives to cigarettes," said Tom Pinlac, President, The Vapers Philippines.
The seventh Conference of the Parties (CoP7) of the WHO's Framework Convention on Tobacco Control (FCTC) -- the world's first public health treaty -- kicked off on Monday and is slated to run till November 12.
E-cigarettes have been endorsed by the UK government as 95 per cent safer than cigarettes. They are widely available in England, the US and the EU, leading many smokers to quit cigarettes, according to a study published in the journal Addiction.
They have recently become the most popular way to quit smoking in Switzerland -- where WHO is headquartered.
A WHO Secretariat report was the basis for this week's negotiations. Despite acknowledging that e-cigarettes are "very likely... less toxic than cigarette smoke" and that smokers switching to e-cigarettes would represent a "public health achievement", the report recommends banning or severely restricting e-cigarettes, citing concerns about lack of clinical studies on long-term safety.
"If we had waited for clinical studies, we wouldn't have seat belts, motorcycle helmets, cleaner fuel, or healthier foods," said Pinlac.
"There is no doubt e-cigarettes are much safer than cigarettes. Banning them shows disdain for our health and we are the ones who pay the price. Concerns about youth are very important, but that should be addressed through appropriate, balanced regulation, not bans."
The need for safer alternatives to cigarettes is particularly acute in Asia, home to two-thirds of the world's smokers.
"This is a development issue. While Western Europe, England and the US allow e-cigarettes and have seen smoking rates plummet, the number of smokers in the developing world is growing," said Nilesh Jain of the Indian Vapers Association.
"Unfortunately, in India and across Asia, governments have banned e-cigarettes and the WHO supports them. That give us only two options: quit or die. We deserve equal access to the products that can improve our health."